Question for you. What’s a common factor in the demolition of a building and demolition of end-of-life vehicles? Well, in St. Thomas that would be Valerie M’Garry.
For nearly a decade, the London lawyer has steered her client – Sutherland Press building owner David McGee – through the court system, deflecting at every turn attempts by the city to demolish the structure built in 1913.
Twice this year, the hearings have stalled due to M’Garry’s ill health, but at the most recent appearance Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin left no doubt as to what lies ahead in the Sutherland Saga: the matter will be addressed May 24 with or without M’Garry.
“Mr. McGee should take that into account,” cautioned Hockin.
Keeping in mind you can’t always judge a book by its cover, we would say it’s a safe bet M’Garry will be representing the building owner in May based on her appearance this past Monday at a public hearing to address a zoning bylaw amendment requested by Triple M Metal to permit an end-of-life vehicle waste disposal operation at their industrial metal recycling depot at 245 Edward Street.
M’Garry seemed very fit and healthy, which may be in stark contrast to the future wellbeing of the Triple M ownership team who will have to deal with her objection to the zoning amendment.
She is representing Force Iron and Metal and she argued the city’s official plan allows for just one salvage and wrecking facility.
“The St. Thomas official plan has always said only existing salvage and wrecking facilities would be permitted,” M’Garry pointed out to council and staff, “and by creep – taking a baby step here and a baby step there – if this rezoning goes through, it will effectively become a salvage and wrecking facility.”
Speaking with M’Garry the next day, she stressed “Triple M was originally only permitted to bring in waste from St. Thomas industries and they’re looking to expand their base of operations and I understand that, that’s a business decision. I’m trying to protect the integrity of the official plan for St. Thomas and my client’s investment.”
On the subject of demolition, M’Garry’s intervention on behalf of Force Iron and Metal is akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion.
You can see how this could conceivably play out.
THAT DRIPPING SOUND . . .
We’ve harped on this for over a year now, and evidence of the paper trail is in Monday’s council agenda on Page 59, where the city’s director of finance David Aristone notes in his 2016 Annual Reporting for Investments that St. Thomas Energy still owes the city $5,557,951 from the collection of water bills dating back to at least 2014.
We asked Aristone on Friday if this outstanding amount is still, in fact, overdue payment of water bills collected on behalf of the city.
“Essentially, yes,” he confirmed.
The city-owned utility managed to whittle that amount down from $6.1 million the previous year.
In the 2015 financial statement there was an advisory – confirmed by Aristone – Ascent (the parent of St. Thomas Energy) is making monthly payments of almost $59,000 (including 3 per cent interest) and this note payable is due Dec. 31, 2017.
For 2016, the city received $175,390 in interest, although a quick math scan doesn’t appear to confirm the monthly payment is being fully met.
With the pending Entegrus merger, how will this outstanding debt be accounted for? Will the term of the promissory note be extended to allow for full payment. Will the residents of Chatham-Kent – the home base for Entegrus – be on the hook? Will it just be written off?
And what about the St. Thomas Energy long-term debt, reportedly in excess of $20 million?
If you plan to attend the March 30 merger open house, these would be excellent starting points when talking to the powers-to-be of both utilities.
We won’t be shy in asking.
A FARE DEAL
There seems to be a little confusion about the status of Your Taxi, formerly Cox Cabs.
A report to council from Dave White, manager of roads and transportation, recommends council authorize Your Taxi to operate a taxi service in St. Thomas, once the firm pays a new business fee and updates ownership of its vehicles.
The cost for doing business under the new banner is $1,500.
In his report, White notes Cox Transportation filed for bankruptcy Feb. 3 of this year. Confirmation was provided to city staff Feb. 13.
Odd, we’ve got a copy of the notice of bankruptcy dated Jan. 6, 2017, with the first creditors’ meeting on Jan. 26.
Speaking with this corner in late January owner Jamie Donnelly advised, “The licences from the city have all been paid for, no problem there. The city is not overly fussy, I don’t think, over what name is on them. As long as it’s properly looked after. We just bought our 2017 licences with the Your Taxi name on them.”
Well, it would appear the city is just a little fussy about the paperwork.
“The City has been in contact with Your Taxi who has advised in writing that Your Taxi is a new legal entity,” White notes in his report. “In accordance with By-Law 145-2013 Your Taxi is required to pay the new business fee of $1,500.00 for the Taxi Broker license for the initial year of operation. Your Taxi will also need to provide copies of updated ownerships (in the name Your Taxi) for all vehicles.
According to the Cox Transportation Ltd. bankruptcy notice, $905,945 is owing to dozens of unsecured and prefered creditors including drivers, many well-known city businesses and secured creditors like Canada Revenue agency, owed $232,432.
In addition to that financial mess, has the firm been operating in violation of the city bylaw since the beginning of the year?
If so, what are the repercussions?
And when we spoke with Donnelly a couple of months ago he insisted the firm was just tweaking its marketing.
“We started re-branding about three months ago and we have completed it now.”
Except for the small matter of a new business fee.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Dogs being sold on line or at street corners to help finance a drug deal.
Unwanted kittens sold to owners of snakes as a food source.
In St. Thomas?
You bet, insisted Lois Jackson at Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Animal Welfare Committee.
She is chair of the committee and founder of All Breed Canine Rescue and as disheartening as those stories are, what really depresses Jackson is the snail-like pace at which council and staff act on her committee’s recommendations.
And several critical policy suggestions were put on the table at this week’s sitting, proven winners based on experience garnered at the London shelter.
How about a behavioural assessment of all dogs and cats brought in to the city shelter? Colour code them so staff can better match an animal to the potential adoptees. It’s a program called Meet Your Match.
As Jackson noted, why would you adopt out a high-needs dog to parents with several kids living in a high-rise?
You’re asking for trouble and a return to the shelter of a very confused animal.
Let’s slow the process, Jackson stressed, and give people honest information about a cat or dog they are seeking to adopt. It is an emotional process for all involved, she reiterated.
And helps avoid adoptions based purely on, ‘What a cute puppy.’
“These are tools and they’re only as good as how the staff use them,” said Jackson. “Staff have to be coached. It takes the sting out of talking to someone at the counter (of the animal shelter).
Perhaps the most critical recommendation is a central do not adopt list to flag known animal abusers or individuals prohibited from owning pets.
Will council and staff take the bait?
POINT TO PONDER
We seem to recall several years ago a move to explore purchase of the property now occupied by Giant Tiger for the purpose of transforming it back to the beautiful park setting that, in its glory days, graced the entrance to the CASO station.
Well the lease expires later this year but there seems to be considerable interest in the site as a retail grocery outlet.
Is there any recollection as to who might have been promoting the park suggestion?
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
With the abundance of vacant commercial properties in St.Thomas, it would be nice if the Giant Tiger property could be returned to its former use as a park. If the need for a new grocery retailer is present, why not use the Zellers building? The acquisition of the Giant Tiger property would significantly enhance the street presence of the CASO station. A park in front of the station would blend excellently with the planned redevelopment of the railway lands into a city park. I’m sure the city doesn’t have ample funding for projects like this, but it would nicely fit in with the city’s current theme of promoting the downtown.
I think that is an excellent idea…. Also why not place the Cenotaphs there as well… A nice green space… Some trees … Could be a beautiful spot right downtown.