Proposed Wellington Block revitalization: Over-the-top excitement or cause for concern?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile one St. Thomas councillor expressed concern over further investment in the city-owned Wellington Block, an architect working on the social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street is “over-the-top excited” about the possibilities inside the now-vacant structure.
That’s according to city manager Wendell Graves, who updated council on the status of the former Wellington Public School at the April 15 reference committee meeting.
And, one of those possibilities is converting each classroom into a residential unit, with the wainscotting and chalkboards in place so that some of them could be live/work spaces.
Graves envisions a total of 19 units of various sizes on the three floors, with each having its own heating/air conditioning system.
Not all units would be of the geared-to-income variety, with a number of them to be market driven.

Coun. Linda Stevenson indicated “she really liked the idea,” while Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands was far more cautious, as she noted: “Another investment in this building gives me cause for concern.”
The city has a 99-year deal with the province for the provision of approximately 100 parking spaces at the Wellington Block for use by those attending the Elgin County Courthouse and the city has the use of 12 to 15 parking spots.
At the reference committee meeting, Graves indicated “We want a dialogue with the province on parking.”
WELLINGTON STSpeaking with Graves following the meeting, he indicated the project could be partially funded through the sale of inventory from the city’s stock of housing units. As has been the case with funding the 230 Talbot Street development.
“That is the business case we have to drill down on,” he confirmed. “We would do that if some of the units are going to be affordable housing. But we have to figure what this is going to cost us in the overall perspective.”
The next step, according to Graves, is to present a business case to council, ideally before the end of May.

Related posts:

No big spenders in the 2018 St. Thomas municipal vote

https://ianscityscope.com/2011/09/13/algoma-university-aims-to-offer-programs-at-wellington-street-p-s/

REMAINING NAMELESS

Just days after our item last week with Tanya Calvert and her Facebook survey on whether St. Thomas police should “publicly release the names of all people who are arrested for trying to purchase sex,” the service announced 20 men have been arrested in a sting operation.
And no, the names of the men – ranging in age from 20 to 71 years – will not be released. Five of them were from St. Thomas, the rest from the Elgin/Oxford/Middlesex region.
The four-day blitz earlier this month was led by members of the St. Thomas Police Service Street Crimes Unit.
The individuals were charged with one count of communication for the purpose of obtaining sexual services.
One of the men was also charged with trafficking after he attempted to sell cocaine to an undercover cop.
They were released and will appear in court at a later date, with police recommending they attend ‘john school.’
And what exactly will they be attending?
herridgejpgAccording to a police media release, it is an eight-hour diversion program as an alternative to criminal prosecution and deals with the realities of the sex trade, bringing awareness to the impact of prostitution on families and the community as a whole
There is a fee to attend, with the proceeds used to provide support programs for those in the sex trade.
Upon completion of the course, the charge is withdrawn.
St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge has opted not to name those charged.
In the media release he advised, “In keeping with our established practice of only releasing names of individuals who are recidivist (a convicted criminal who re-offends, especially repeatedly) and are a threat to the public safety or property of the citizens of St. Thomas, I will not be releasing the names of the men arrested for attempting to purchase sex.”
In our discussion last week with Calvert – corporate communications coordinator with the service – she stressed “That poll was not the defining moment . . . There are still advocacy groups to be consulted with, community partners, people with lived experience. We have a lot of considerations to take in before the chief releases any kind of decision.”
And that is exactly what Herridge has undertaken.
“I have reviewed all of the comments on our recent Facebook post and the numerous research documents provided along with inviting feedback from our local community partners.
“The passionate opinions of sex trade survivors, sex trade workers and the community at large have been respected and I thank everyone for weighing in. However, I have to consider what is in the best interest of our community.”
Herridge continued, “I have reviewed the case files for this investigation and there is no evidence to suggest there is a threat to public safety or property. “This was an uncover operation to determine the extent of sex trade specifically in St. Thomas. I certainly appreciate the sensitivity of this issue.”
Going forward, the chief pointed out names of johns will only be released “where violence, minors or a threat to public safety exists. Our response will always be based on each individual case and the supporting evidence.”
This is in keeping with an interview last December in which Herridge explained a new direction for the service when dealing with repeat offenders in an effort to make them accountable.
“I’ve always said policing is a partnership with the community and if we feel that someone is a threat to public safety, or a threat to property, that person’s name, and their age will be released to the public.”
That new approach comes with a caveat, as Herridge was quick to point out.
“I do not like public shaming and we will not for those people who commit a crime, a one of. Where a young mom goes into Walmart and comes out with a bag of diapers. They’re stealing for a reason. It’s a necessity.”

Related post:

https://ianscityscope.com/2018/12/01/naming-names-a-new-direction-for-st-thomas-police-dealing-with-repeat-offenders/

A STATE OF SOME CRISIS

The province’s finance minister may have received a cordial welcome inside the CASO station this past Tuesday (April 23), however, it was a greeting of a different flavour for Vic Fedeli outside the iconic building.
He was in St. Thomas with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek to pitch the Progressive Conservative government’s recently released budget to the St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce.
And 75 or so teachers, support workers and their young children who formed a chanting, whistle-shrieking welcoming committee were on hand to voice their displeasure with the province’s education roadmap. A route they say will lead to layoffs, dropped courses and, ultimately, “a state of some crisis,” according to a local teachers’ federation president.
Education protest April 23-19jpgFedeli was afforded a similar raucous welcome earlier in the day on a visit to London.
While teacher layoffs appear inevitable across the province, Craig Smith, president of the Thames Valley local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), said there is a mitigating factor locally.
“One of the things in this district that will offset that a little bit is growth in population and also we will have some retirements.
“But, that said, over time is not going to be enough to offset what they are doing, certainly to class size. For example, junior students and intermediates, they are increasing already big classes by one as an average.
“Primaries are crammed right to the cap right now and the kindergarten classes are capped at 29, with a float up to 32 in some cases.”
Smith says this is evidence students are being warehoused in schools.
“We haven’t got much room to move. This is even before Mr. Ford (Ontario Premier Doug Ford) and changes came in. This will put us all into a state of some crisis.”
Smith stressed students need a certain number of teachers to be able to support their work.
“And, we need manageable class sizes so we are able to attend to the needs of the various students we have in our classes.
“What’s on offer right now isn’t going to help anybody . . . There is less opportunity to work with the students who need that one-on-one support.”
If the government is striving for efficiencies, then come and talk to us, offered Smith.
“We can help with that. If you’re going to get a billion dollars in efficiencies then re-invest them into the system where it’s needed. To support the students who are most vulnerable and fix the infrastructure so we all have a safe working and learning environment.”
The turnout to greet Fedeli was more than a demonstration for the sake of demonstrating, stressed Smith.
“Clearly, the positive message here . . . is the support for the institution of public education which is really under threat right now. And, it doesn’t have to be this way.
“We’re the ones who actually build the future. The idea of just using education and any other public service as a saving mechanism to pay off the debt is really, really shortsighted.”
Lisa MacMaster, president of OSSTF District 11, pointed out it is not the class size average in high schools that are changing, it is the funding for students.
“So rather than funding with a ratio of 22 to 1, they are funding at 28 to 1, so the impact in Thames Valley alone over the next four years will be the equivalent of 283 teachers. Few teachers in the system.”

“We wanted to talk about the impact of these cuts on students in his riding and schools in his riding and, in our view, he doesn’t have an interest in having those conversations.”

And, added MacMaster, that’s 283 teachers who are teaching six classes on average.
“That’s the number of programs that are going to be cut from education as well,” said MacMaster.
“This will impact low-level students who are in our locally developed classes. It’s going to impact small programs, specialized programs like art and construction tech, all of those classes could be impacted by this reduction in programming.”
MacMaster noted all of the libraries across the district have already been impacted.
“And we’ll see a significant reduction, potentially, in guidance counsellors. The number of adults in the building is going to decrease with this change in funding.”
The requirement students complete four online courses, according to MacMaster, is not based on any research that supports the value of such a method of learning.
“In fact, the research says the opposite. I don’t know why they have gone that direction. It is not in the best interest of students and not in the best interests of programming.
“There has been very little to no information, whatsoever, about the plan for E-learning . . . It is inequitable for students who can’t afford to have internet at home or students in rural areas who don’t have internet access.”
E-learning is effective for some students, advised MacMaster, and those students should continue to have that opportunity.
“But forced E-learning in class sizes of 35 without the connection of a classroom teacher within a school is problematic.”
Like Smith, she noted the demonstration was about more than a noisy gathering to vent frustration.
“It’s about students, it’s about programming, it’s about protecting public education in Ontario. And I’ll say we’ve been trying for a month and a half to try and get a meeting with Jeff Yurek. We had one scheduled for May 3 and he cancelled it.
“So, we thought what a better way to share our concerns with both Jeff Yurek and Vic Fedeli than to be here and let them know the impact of those cuts on education.”
Neither came outside to address the gathering and as to the reason why Yurek cancelled the meeting next week, MacMaster advised, “He said he is not prepared to speak about the concerns we have in an environment where we are about to begin bargaining.
“We wanted to talk about the impact of these cuts on students in his riding and schools in his riding and, in our view, he doesn’t have an interest in having those conversations.”

THE READER’S WRITE

In response to our item last week on Tanya Calvert’s Facebook survey on naming johns, Kelly H. Franklin forwarded the following thought starter.
“Not all participated, not all voices or thoughts were heard … ask ourselves why people won’t weigh in?”

FOR THE CALENDAR

The South Western Ontario Regional Envirothon takes place April 30 at Springwater Conservation Area featuring high school students from across the region. This year’s theme is agroecology, the study of ecological processes applied to agricultural production systems. The event is hosted by Forests Ontario, with the help of some key local partners, Ontario Envirothonincluding Ron Casier, Elgin Stewardship Council; the Catfish Creek Conservation Authority; and Erin Mutch, Environment Coordinator, Thames Valley District School Board. There’s plenty at stake here, with more than 5,000 students and educators from across the province participating each year. The winning team from each region earns a spot at the provincial championship with the top Ontario team joining winning teams from other provinces and the United States for the North American Envirothon.

Nominations are now being accepted for the city’s 46th annual Honours and Awards presentation to be held 6 p.m. June 13 at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre. Here’s your opportunity to nominate a volunteer, athlete, team, artist or any individual worthy of recognition for their efforts in 2018. Nomination forms and eligibility criteria are available at stthomas.ca under Honours and Awards, or at the Joe Thornton Community Centre, the city clerk or mayor’s office at city hall. Completed forms must be submitted to the parks and recreation office at the Joe Thornton Community Centre no later than 4 p.m. May 15.

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