Mayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote.
In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife.
All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205.
Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council.
Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500.
The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket.
The spendthrift in the four-horse mayoral race was Malichi Male, who told this corner his campaign expenses would be zero and he was true to his word.
In total 19 candidates sought one of eight councillor seats and they had a spending limit of $28,355. None of the individuals came remotely close to reaching that figure.
Lori Baldwin-Sands spent $2,357, all of it her own money.
Leslie Buchanan spent $1,319 with Bob McCaig chipping in $500 and former alderman Gord Campbell adding another $200.
In his successful re-election bid, Gary Clarke spent $1,892, with $1,067 of that total his own money.
Greg Graham kept his expenditures down to $572, all of that coming from his own pocket.
In her fifth run at a council seat, Rose Gibson rang up a tab of $1,381.
Tim Hedden kept a tight rein on spending, holding it at $450, all but $50 of that total being his own money.
In his first foray into municipal politics, Jim Herbert spent $1,516 of his own money on a successful campaign.
Petrusia Hontar was one of the bigger spenders in the fall vote with expenses of $4,410, of which $708 went to an appreciation event.
Incumbent Jeff Kohler topped all councillor candidates, spending $7,153 in his successful bid. His golf tournament raised $4,575 toward campaign expenses.
John Laverty had expenses of $1,720 in his unsuccessful bid for a seat in the council chamber.
Serge Lavoie kept expenses in line, spending $814 on his failed bid.
Michael Manary had expenses totalling $1,031 in his second run at a council seat.
Dave Mathers spent $904 in his debut bid, aided by a $200 contribution from area realtor Don Jackson.
James Murray did not accept any contributions or incur any expenses.
For his return to municipal politics, Steve Peters had campaign expenses of $4,696.
That was offset by numerous campaign contributions including $500 from Suzanne van Bommell, $250 from Andrew Sloan and $125 from Susan McConnell.
Joan Rymal incurred $3,579 in expenses in her successful re-election bid.
Kevin Smith, likewise, did not accept any contributions or incur any expenses.
Linda Stevenson had a total of $2,599 in campaign expenses, with a $250 contribution from Fifteen St. Catherine Street Inc. and $200 from Reith and Associates.
And Mark Tinlin was successful in his re-election bid, with expenses of $2,346. Contributing to the campaign were Brian Bolt, $250; Ernie Popovich, $200; and Tom Martin, $200.
A far cry from campaigns as recently as the turn of this century where many candidates had a bevy of contributors including some from London and several of them developers.
THE BIG LENS ON A PRICEY ASSET
There is no doubt it is a magnificent edifice. Now, if the city could only find a use for it.
We’re talking, of course, about what is now referred to as the Wellington Block, the former Wellington Public School. Most recently it was the home of the STEAM Centre and prior to that the St. Thomas campus of Algoma University.
The city acquired the property from the Thames Valley District School Board in 2011 as part of the parking strategy for the consolidated court facility around the corner on the site of the Elgin County Courthouse.
Since then, we have seen those parking spaces are not required, however, the city is still bound by an agreement with the province.
At a reference committee meeting last October, city manager Wendell Graves stressed putting the building on the market was not a possibility.
“I don’t think selling it is an option. We are in a long-term contract with the province for courthouse parking.”
There are several issues standing in the way of development, most notably the lack of air conditioning.
The city has invested heavily in the former school. In July of 2017, council of the day approved an expenditure of $466,000 with Forevergreen Roofing for replacement of the roof.
A motion by the city’s Municipal Heritage Committee sheds light on the scope of that 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.”
Prior to last fall’s reference committee meeting, Graves told this corner, “It’s a wonderful space, so I think we will have a big lens on alternatives that may come forward.”
Two options were bandied about at the meeting, focussing on office space and some form of housing.
Graves noted there are four rooms on each floor which could be converted into fully accessible apartments with offices on the main floor.
Prompting this obvious question from Coun. Gary Clarke.
“I can’t see too many businesses going in there. Why would we want to get into the office rental business?”
That brings us to Monday’s (April 15) reference committee meeting where the Wellington Block is one of two items on the agenda with administration discussing potential uses for the building.
NOT SO SUNNY NOW
Last year he made the City of St. Thomas so-called Sunshine List, this year Garry Christiansen could find himself unemployed.
The St. Thomas Police Service constable earned just over $107,000 in 2018 and is currently suspended from duty with pay as his case wends its way through the court system.
The 27-year veteran of the service has been charged with sexual exploitation and sexual assault involving a minor, stemming from a Special Investigation Unit’s probe in 2017.
The province’s police watchdog was contacted by city police after the service received complaints of a sexual nature involving a female youth.
Christiansen had a court appearance last week and is next due in court Tuesday (April 16).
A resolution is expected at some point in June.
DID YOU KNOW?
Under the city’s amended animal control bylaw to be debated at Monday’s council meeting, you could have a donkey, mule, pig, goat, sheep, turkey or a snake (no longer than 60 cm., mind you) as a service animal?
However, forget trying to claim a llama, ostrich, skunk or venomous reptile as a required service animal.
The amendments were prompted by questions raised in February about what exactly qualifies as a service animal.
And, if you are into racing or showing pigeons, you can house up to 75 of them on your property within the city limits. There are some restrictions, so check at city hall.
It’s a fascinating read.
THE READER’S WRITE
Following last Saturday’s note on the transit study being undertaken by the city, Dave Mathers passed along the following.
“If the city does nothing else with this traffic study please, please, please ensure that something is done to get the fifth and last bus OFF the street each time they gather at the Superstore mall location. The fifth bus is always sticking out into the right lane causing safety concerns. Full disclosure – I do not and never have taken a city bus.”
He also forwarded this concern to city staff and received the following from Ross Patrick, a transportation technician with the city.
“Thanks for the feedback on this transfer point issue. The bus lay-by storage length will be reviewed in the study as we did request a mobility hub review. In the meantime, I will speak with our operator to encourage better driver practices around this location where they shouldn’t impede the motoring public.”
FOR THE CALENDAR
The city’s newest brewery and tasting room – Caps Off Brewing – has its soft opening this Thursday (Apr. 18) at 168 Curtis St. Operated by Fran and Rick Dunseith, the brewery plans to have available a stout, cream ale, Scottish ale, and wheat beer along with seasonal offerings. The hours Thursday are 1 to 9 p.m. for retail sales and beer by the glass. They will also be open shorter hours on Good Friday, however no retail sales that day. For more info, visit their Facebook page at capsoffbrewing.com
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