The province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek said he is happy with the revised plan, adding “We have saved the bridge, that’s what the farmers wanted, that’s what industry wanted and that’s what the community wanted.”
Yurek stressed, “We just wanted to be listened to during the consultation process and it seems as though they have done so and hopefully it goes forward.
“The problem is, they didn’t consulate to start with,” Yurek continued. “If they had only listened to everyone at the start.”
In 2015 Jeff Cook, owner/operator of Mapleview Farms complained, “They’re (the province) not acknowledging the concerns that we’ve raised and they’re not coming up with viable solutions for some of the problems that we’ve made them aware of.”
Yurek speculated the project will now proceed fairly quickly.
“And I assume the costs are going to be higher than what was originally budgeted for. However, when you look at infrastructure projects across the province of this magnitude, sometimes to get it right you have to spend the right amount.
Frank Hochstenbach, senior project engineer with the Ministry of Transportation, advised the next step is for the ministry to review and respond to comments received at the public information centre.
Once the preliminary design is finalized, there will be a 30-day review of the transportation environmental study report, likely to be undertaken this summer.
Hochstenbach cautioned, however, the time frame could be subject to change due to the upcoming provincial election.
Responding to the news on Twitter, Janine Lunn tweeted “I think the farm community and anyone who commutes through farm country would call this a win!”
In a second Tweet, she added “Exciting development for #Elgin and #Middlesex drivers. Updating both bridges preserves time and safety for both farmers and commuters! Glad these voices were heard.”
NEW POLICE REGISTRY COULD SAVE LIVES
In its ongoing commitment to personal safety in the community, the St. Thomas Police Service recently launched a vulnerable persons registry (VPR).
The database records critical information about an individual and their specific needs, habits and contact information to help first responders locate a vulnerable person quickly. As a result, increasing the chances of a positive outcome, particularly at this time of year when weather can be a life-threatening challenge.
The VPR is geared to an individual with a medical, mental health, physical condition or pattern of behaviour which may pose a danger to themself or others.
This could include a person who wanders, is unable to communicate effectively with others or may be prone to violent outbursts.
The register is available to parents, guardians, administrators, substitute decision makers or individuals concerned about their own situation.
Const. Travis Sandham oversees the VPR and cites an example of an individual “born in 1993 who added herself to the registry because she knows she has a tendency to wander and needs help sometimes and this will help us find her.”
Referring to another example, Sandham pointed to the case of “a parent who registered their child who wanders and is obsessed with water but doesn’t understand, due to a mental illness, the dangers of water and she can’t swim.
“So, water is the first thing we have to check if the person goes missing. Go to the water closest to where she lives and make sure she doesn’t go in there. Any little piece of information that can help us is great.”
Sandham added, “One of the questions on the registry is if they wander, where to they tend to go. Do they have a specific place they like to go?
The registry is to be shared with Elgin OPP and Aylmer Police.
Key to the VPR is up-date-information, stressed Sandham.
“This is something that has to be looked at once a year. I will go through the entire registry and make sure all the information is up to date. Contact each person on the registry and make sure their loved one or each person they have added is still in the same situation and the contact information is still the same.”
You can register online and submit a photo of the individual at stps.on.ca and click on the VPR tab at the top of the page.
Or, you can submit the information in person at the police station on CASO Crossing with a recent photo of the person being registered.
For further information, contact Sandham at 519-631-1224, ext. 4232.
EMERGING DEBATE OVER IMMERSION
Early in 2015, the Thames Valley District School Board chose to address overcrowding at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School – Elgin county’s only such school – by ‘re-designating’ 240 students to Port Stanley Public School.
The second part of the equation was to look at a second FI school to serve St. Thomas and Elgin.
Two years later, the final recommendations of the Senior Administration Report – Elementary Pupil Accommodation Review 01 proposed closing Sparta Public School in June of this year.
And that an Attendance Area Review be conducted during the 2017-18 school year for the creation of a French Immersion public school at Sparta Public School, effective July 1, 2018.
Now, the parent committee at Sparta Public School is calling on the Thames Valley District School Board to defer closure of the small, rural school until a new review can be undertaken.
And at Tuesday’s meeting of Elgin county council (Jan. 30), members unanimously threw their support behind the parents, following a presentation by Heather Derks and Meagan Ruddock, vice-presidents of the Sparta Home & School Association.
Approximately 240 Sparta students would transfer to Port Stanley Public School, leading to overcrowding and the need for portables until renovations can be undertaken, according to the parent committee.
The student population could swell to approximately 450 – with the inclusion of approximately 100 additional students in a holding zone – at a school with a capacity of 317.
The parent committee also raised concerns about the number of buses needed to bring these students to Port Stanley and the possibility of loading/unloading buses on the road. This could create both a safety hazard and a nuisance for area residents.
While enrolment in the French Immersion program in Elgin has increased steadily since 2009, according to projections included in a French Immersion accommodation review undertaken last year, enrolment is expected to gradually decline from 735 students this year to 680 in 2026.
Both Derks and Ruddock question whether the TVDSB would have proceeded with the conversion at Sparta Public School, given accurate numbers.
Central Elgin Deputy Mayor Sally Martyn – a former teacher at Sparta Public School – said the TVDSB “ignored everything we requested.”
Martyn added, “they said they couldn’t keep Sparta open because of the cost of renovations, yet they will renovate for French Immersion?”
The TVDSB intends to spend about $1 million on improvements to the school.
The parent committee is seeking to stay closure of the school until “a new, just and accurate review be conducted” by the school board with input from students and parents that reflects “the reality of the community.”
The city’s sharps disposal program has experienced a few bumps in its short history and according to a report coming to council Monday (Feb. 5) the needle collection kiosk at the side of city hall will be moved from that location this spring.
Seems downtown pharmacies/medical offices are using the current sharps container to get rid of their collected material to avoid the cost of disposal. In the process jamming the units or necessitating additional pick-ups.
That is the conclusion contained in the report from Michelle Shannon, the city’s waste management coordinator.
She notes, “It is a concern and liability that these materials are being dropped off in an unsafe manner, requiring staff to remove the sharps from the public right- of-way and store,” until they can be collected by the city’s contractor.
The solution is to remove the city hall kiosk and replace it with a new, improved design unit at a proposed location on St. Catharine Street, near the municipal parking lot.
The annual cost of providing this service is estimated at just over $8,000.
PSTR RAILROADED BY VANDALS
A railway coach parked in downtown St. Thomas proved an attractive target for miscreants.
Some time mid-January, individuals stripped copper wiring from underneath a Port Stanley Terminal Rail passenger coach sitting alongside the London and Port Stanley railway station. They also made off with a specialized head-end power plug.
PSTR chairman Dan Vernackt estimates it will cost between five and eight thousand dollars to replace and repair the damage, due to the limited resources of the volunteer-run tourist railway.
Vernackt has been in contact with St. Thomas Police in addition to the two scrap yards in the city to alert them of the nature of the items in the hope they turn up and can be returned.
The coach, which is back in Port Stanley, had been parked in St. Thomas in anticipation of the Railway City Arts Crawl, Feb. 23 and 24. Vernackt does not anticipate the car will be repaired in time to participate in the arts-themed weekend.
FOR THE CALENDAR
A coroner’s inquest into the death of St. Thomas resident Brian Daniel begins 10 a.m. Monday (Feb. 5) at the Elgin County Courthouse. It is scheduled to last four days.
Daniel, age 55, was a flag man on a construction site along the Hwy. 3 bypass when he was struck by a pickup truck on July 2, 2014. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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