In January of last year we first wrote about the forgotten Talbot Street apartments, clearly visible from the mayor’s office across the street at city hall.
Even more shocking than the decrepit state of these hovels was the fact owner Trad Antoine had been approved by St.Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre.
Two of the apartments were to be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder for Canadian Mental Health Association clients.
He was in line to receive $731,925 of Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) funding.
Just before Christmas, 2016, we checked in with acting director of St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works Elizabeth Sebestyen on the status of those new units given the fact Trad had packed up shop at his furniture business housed in the old theatre.“We’re just kind of in the middle of legal matters and trying to conclude that so we can move on,” she advised at the time.” It should be resolved fairly soon. We do have an agreement with the owner to proceed but things aren’t quite finalized yet.
“I’m still hopeful that maybe something might happen there.”
Well, it’s probably no surprise but those new apartment units are a non-starter, based on a report coming to council on Monday. In it, Sebestyen is seeking council’s support to revoke that funding.
“At the proponent’s request, the Contribution Agreement for IAH funding was terminated in December 2016,” writes Sebestyen. “No IAH funding had been forwarded to the proponent due to non-compliance with the terms of the agreement.”
Like watching the proverbial train wreck in slow motion, you could see this one coming.
Sebestyen is instead recommending the city seek provincial approval to award this funding to Walter Ostojic & Sons Limited – in lieu of funding previously approved under a separate program – which is willing to provide one more affordable housing unit, for a total of nine one-bedroom units, in a planned 12-unit apartment complex at 50 Locust Street.
Rents in the nine affordable units will be set at $500 plus personal hydro. The building, with elevator, will include six accessible units.
A SHARP DIVIDE
It’s either a very encouraging report or a startling dose of reality. It all comes down to your perspective.
A report to council from the city’s waste management coordinator Michelle Shannon summarizes the Sharps Disposal Program, a one-year pilot project in partnership with Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.
In May, 2016, a disposal kiosk was installed on Mondamin Street, adjacent to city hall, with the health unit responsible for the collection and disposal of all used needles. The role of city staff was to monitor the fullness of the kiosk. Funding for the program from was provided by the health unit for a period of one year.
Over that period of time, the health unit estimates 55,000 needles were collected and disposed.
In her report, Shannon advises, “On two occasions users of the kiosk attempted to deposit oversized sharps containers into the kiosk, jamming the opening, rendering the kiosk unusable. On one occasion, when the kiosk was jammed, users placed full containers of sharps on top of the kiosk.
“When the kiosk was jammed, city staff had to open the kiosk and attempt to remove the blockage. Additionally, the kiosk requires almost daily monitoring, because the users tend to stockpile the material and make bulk drop offs. The kiosk can go from being empty to overfull within a very short time period.”
In May, the health unit advised the city as of May 10, it will no longer be involved in the emptying or recovery of sharps from the Mondamin Street site. Since city staff did not have council approval to continue the program, the resources or training in place to safely deal with incoming needles, Shannon notes after the kiosk was emptied by the health unit for the final time, the kiosk was removed from its location at city hall.
Shannon estimates it would cost between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for the city to operate the disposal program.
She notes, “It is beyond the city to decide whether the costs of this program are worth the value it provides relative of other ESPTH programs. Downloading this health program to the city was not the intention of the original agreement and does not reflect typical municipal resources or training. A supportive role the city could play is to provide locations.”
As such, Shannon is recommending drop-off kiosks on Curtis Street, east of Mary Street; White Street, north of Centre Street; in the Moore Street Parking Lot; and St. Catharine Street, north of Curtis Street
She concludes, “City staff support the continuation of the program by ESTPH and have provided a list of possible sites where kiosks could be installed. However, City staff recommend that the program remain administered and maintained by the ESTPH. The city does not have the resources to provide the constant monitoring of the kiosk. Additionally, city staff are not prepared to address a cleanup situation should the kiosk be vandalized.”
HIGH COST OF HERITAGE
At Monday’s meeting, council will be asked to approve the winning tender bid from Forevergreen Roofing in the amount of $466,090 for replacement of the roof on the former Wellington Street School, now the home of the STEAM Centre.
The initial budget was $450,000, however city treasurer David Aristone has the authority to top up that amount by transferring funds, up to $25,000, from the infrastructure reserve fund.
If you think the winning bid is a little steep, the only other submission, from Semple Gooder Roofing, came in at just shy of $935,000.
A substantial cost differential.
Does that tell you there was little interest or expertise available to undertake this project on a heritage property?
This motion approved recently by the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee sheds light on the scope of this undertaking. “Given the mandate of the Municipal Heritage Committee, the heritage designation of the building and that the roof material is a significant element in that designation, the Municipal Heritage Committee recommends that the roof replacement be with slate and copper as described in the By-Law.”
NOT ALWAYS PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR
Mayor and council aren’t subject to report cards on a yearly basis – although that would be a desirable accounting of value to ratepayers with a trip to the polls next year – however attendance is duly kept on a semi-annual basis by the clerk’s department.
Here’s the breakdown from the start of the year until June 30. In total, 38 meetings were held, comprised of regular council meetings (18), reference committee (10 held prior to council meetings), public (6) and special meetings (4).
Mayor Heather Jackson: 33 of 38 (including 17 council meetings but only 2 public meetings)
Coun. Mark Burgess : 38 of 38
Coun. Gary Clarke: 38 of 38
Coun. Jeff Kohler: 37 of 38 (17 council meetings)
Coun. Joan Rymal: 36 of 38 (17 council meetings, 3 special meetings)
Coun. Linda Stevenson: 38 of 38
Coun. Mark Tinlin: 34 of 38(16 council meetings, 8 reference committee)
Coun. Steve Wookey: 36 of 38 (17 council meetings, 5 public)
GIT ‘ER DONE
He has done St. Thomas – and the Township of Southwold – proud for many years and the past 12 months have been a memorable ride for D.J. Kennington. Being the first Canadian to qualify for the Daytona 500 in 29 years earned the affable Kennington plenty of time in the media spotlight on this side of the border.
But this week The Associated Press featured the 39-year-old driver in a piece picked up by news outlets south of the border, including the Observer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Read story here. (CBC News also has a down-to-earth profile.)
Perfect timing with Kennington competing this weekend in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series’ Grand Prix of Toronto on the Honda Indy track.
Love the quote in the Observer from Kennington on family life.
“A lot of times I’ll get the kids to bed with my wife and then climb in bed with her and we’ll be watching a little TV program,” he said. “And I’ll wait till she falls asleep and then I’ll go right back out to the shop again.”
PUSHING THE LIMIT
Still with Southwold and motoring of a different sort, the County of Elgin this past week awarded the tender for reconstruction of Wonderland Road from Ron McNeil Line to London city limits to Spriet Associates in the amount of $230,000, plus HST.
The work will not be undertaken until 2019.
However with repaving of the roadway south from Shorelea Line and the addition of a narrow, paved shoulder on the east side of Wonderland north beyond Shorelea to Ferguson Line, will the speed limit be restored to its 80 km/h limit or will the county – which assumed ownership of the road from Southwold – continue to restrict speed on the southern portion?
Surely the expense of this remedial work is not to solely maintain a limit of 60 km/h.