After nine years, the city finally benefits from a legal determination the Sutherland Press building is, indeed, unsafe but does the ruling from Justice Peter Hockin mean the hostage taking in St. Thomas is nearing a conclusion?
The city has chosen to take a cautious approach, something it can’t be faulted on after a 2008 ruling from Justice David Little triggered partial demolition of the top floor of the four-storey structure. A process halted almost immediately by the same Justice Hockin.
What is most frustrating is the continued lack of movement on the part of owner David McGee since the June 28 decision that upheld a pair of city work orders. Attempts by McGee and his lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, to convince both Hockin and city staff that the financial picture had somehow improved – to the tune of $50,000 – were laughable.
Surely the unpaid bills would gobble that up in prompt fashion.
M’Garry had indicated to this corner the next step would be dialogue with the city on moving forward.
So, how is that working out?
“No talks that I’m aware of with the owner,” city manager Wendell Graves told us this week. “We obviously are continuing to dialogue with John Sanders our legal counsel. I
think we’re aiming to see what the next steps are so we can advise council appropriately on the 21st (the next council meeting, Aug. 21). I think in the few days after the court decision, she (M’Garry) may have had some dialogue with John Sanders but it’s really about what is there of substance to work with. In the absence of nothing we will continue on our pathway.”
Neither M’Garry nor McGee returned our calls this week.
You would think the next obvious step is to establish a firm deadline for tangible evidence remedial efforts are underway in earnest, or let the demolition begin.
“I think, from our perspective,” added Graves, “we will continue to chart the pathway for the demolition that had been planned before and if something else comes ahead of that, then we will have to wait and see. That’s the pathway we’ll be trotting down. We want to get this resolved. We wanted this resolved eons ago.”
So what is the status of the tender for demolition, approved by council in February of last year?
It was awarded to Schouten Excavating of Watford in the amount of $101,135.
“Technically that tender was not active, but we’re going to have some dialogue been now and Aug. 21 to see where that all stands,” advised Graves.
The meeting on Aug. 21 has assumed heightened relevance.
GETTING CLOSER ON THIS ONE
And what of the curious case of Barbara Arbuckle?
About a year ago we wrote of the disappearance at city hall of the director of Ontario Works, hired in February of 2011.
While her name still appears in the city hall staff directory, Graves previously confirmed Arbuckle “is on leave.”
“I can probably provide you with an update on that in the next couple of weeks,” Graves told City Scope this week.
The likely scenario involves a labour tribunal dealing with wrongful dismissal and the players would include several city managers.
If such is the case, the roots go back to 2013 and wend their way around Tara Hall – a 36-bed, adult assisted-living home – and then-owner Jim Akey.
Arbuckle was quite outspoken about the manner in which the city handled this mess.
Of course, none of this will ever be confirmed by the powers to be.
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE
We’re still getting plenty of feedback following our June interview with Ivan Zinn, he of Alma College fire notoriety.
Here is an interesting perspective from Sharon Kirby, who attended this year’s reunion of the Alma College International Alumnae Association in London, where Zinn courageously apologized for his actions on May 28, 2008.
“I was there as I attended Alma College,” writes Kirby. “I also later became the mother of three boys. Fifteen-year-old boys often use poor judgement. It is not because they are thoughtless or “bad” but is because their brain does not process the same as an adult. The consequences of their actions rarely occur to them at the time.
“This young man has taken his life and made something positive out of it and that may not have happened had he not had this experience. I wanted to hug him that day, but was too far back in the room. It was a very emotional day for all of us and something that we were blessed to have happen. We were all grateful for the fortitude it took for him to come to speak to us.”
Forgiveness is a powerful healing agent.
Aptly summarized by American entertainer Bernard Meltzer.
“When you forgive, you in no way chance the past – but you sure do change the future.”
A TEMPTING OFFER
Still with the former school for girls, in our interview last month with Brian Squires – a member of the Zubick family ownership team – he questioned the direction to be taken by Gino Reale, the London developer who now owns the 11-acre Alma College property.
“Why wouldn’t they not take the time to talk with me and find out what I did? I spent a million dollars on paperwork and I had the best of the best people working for me. What is he (Reale) doing to move it forward?”
Squires has since followed up with this offer of assistance for the Moore Street property.
“Why are the new developers not following up with a low-income or seniors’ project on the site? The zoning is all in place and that was a huge part of it. I would be happy to share the existing plans for that site and save them thousands of dollars.”
It has been very quiet of late on the Alma front.