Security cameras will ensure a vibrant downtown as ‘a canvas for economic development’

city_scope_logo-cmykVideo surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street.
The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information.
In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.”
Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.

The report continues, “Successful downtown revitalization strategies must include policies and programs to ensure that there is a safe and positive environment for visitors, residents and business/property owners.”
CCTC camera systenIn total, $70,000 funding is available to purchase equipment and implement the first phase. The St. Thomas Downtown Development Board contributed $10,000 while a local business donated $50,000. The remaining $10,000 could come from retail cannabis funding.
The first camera will be installed at the intersection of Moore and Talbot Streets. Future expansion of the program would see cameras installed in the industrial portion of the city.
The St. Thomas Police Service report concludes a safe, secure and vibrant downtown will provide “a canvas for economic development.”
As per the report, it is noted: “Individuals whose personal information is in the custody or under control of institutions (in this case police) have a right of access to that personal information.”
As such, a policy will need to be implemented to facilitate responses to access to information requests.


Want to take a guess as to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City of St. Thomas?
According to a report from director of finance Dan Sheridan, the financial implications of the coronavirus are somewhere in the range of $500,000 as estimated through to the end of the year.
Although Sheridan cautions, “Information contained in this report should be considered with some caution as we don’t know how the COVID-19 virus may affect the community for the balance of the year.”
These costs coming before council Tuesday are based on actual department figures up through the end of April.
COVID-19 financial implicationsThe treasurer has estimated the monthly costs, lost revenue and savings to the ends of October and December of 2020.
Sheridan notes there is a large loss of revenue related to parks and recreation programs which is offset by not having to hire summer or casual help to operate them.
Valleyview’s COVID-19 costs to this point have been covered by provincial funding.
If additional upper-tier government funding is not on the way to cover the estimated $500,000 expense, Sheridan notes the costs could be offset through a transfer of funds from the infrastructure reserve.


The project never got off the ground – or in this case, placed on the ground – last summer and will the global pandemic sidetrack it again this year?
The undertaking in question is the introduction of outdoor patio areas at existing restaurants in the downtown core.
The concept was pitched to council early last year by Andrew Gunn and city manager Wendell Graves recommended members approve a pilot project in conjunction with the Downtown Development Board.
Outdoor patio proposalHe envisions “temporary patio areas on the sidewalk immediately in front of various eating establishments with a temporary, protected, bump-out sidewalk being placed in the parking space adjacent to the patio area. The patios would be seasonal in nature.”
For logistical reasons, it was a non-starter last summer.
Well, the plan is before council again on Tuesday, with Earl Taylor of the DDB noting the bump-out structures now would be rented from a Hamilton firm instead of having to be constructed.
The firm would install and remove the structures.
We spoke with Taylor this week about reviving the patio concept.

“and we are gathering all the paperwork for an application that has to go to the city . . . so they can serve alcohol out on the sidewalks.”

The bump-outs are the walkways that guide you onto the parking space on the road to manoeuvre around the patio areas.
He says, “We spent so much time last year trying to find a contractor to build those bump-outs and unfortunately the amount of money we had didn’t make sense. We couldn’t build them for the amount we had in our budget.”
That’s where the Hamilton firm comes in. There are many sidewalk patios in that city and the company was formed to construct these bump-outs.
Renting the structures will be covered through funding sourced by Gunn to help beautify the core area.
Taylor indicates four downtown restaurants have expressed an interest in the patio concept “and we are gathering all the paperwork for an application that has to go to the city . . . so they can serve alcohol out on the sidewalks.”
All of this is dependant on the provincial government easing the COVID-19 restrictions to the point where the patios can open.
Otherwise, Taylor notes everything else is in place for summer enjoyment on the patio.
He adds interested restaurants do not have to serve alcohol to utilize a patio area.
Obviously, the addition of sidewalk patios will be another feature to attract people downtown. And, give the city a very European flavour for the summer at least.

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To follow up on last week’s item on Central Elgin residents raising concerns about cannabis cultivation at St. Thomas Municipal Airport, we touched base with the city manager following Monday’s council meeting for an update.
Graves indicated staff has been directed to “provide a written response and we will do that in concert with staff at Central Elgin. That will be forwarded to the folks who had submitted it (a letter to council with a list of a dozen concerns).”

“But I think it’s important to remember anything that happens in the cannabis sphere is tightly regulated by Health Canada. They are the ones who provide any guidance and any licensing for anything that happens, including this operation.”

As to the residents’ request for a meeting of all parties involved, Graves advised: “We’ll get them the written response and if they still have outstanding questions beyond that then something can be considered.”
MERA Cannabis has already begun preparation work on an isolated part of the airport property, according to Graves.
“They have started with their fencing. But it is agricultural use that is permitted at the airport.
“I think when we provide the backbone of facts to the folks who have raised those questions, it might be helpful to them.”
Graves goes on to explain the land is owned by the city although it is in the Municipality of Central Elgin.
“It is actually under federal jurisdiction as an airport,” advised Graves. “And the agricultural use is also permitted.
“But I think it’s important to remember anything that happens in the cannabis sphere is tightly regulated by Health Canada. They are the ones who provide any guidance and any licensing for anything that happens, including this operation. And security is very significant.”
Graves noted the letter was scheduled to go to the concerned residents at the end of this past week and city council will be provided with the information.

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