Well, a new wrinkle in the city’s much-maligned grant policy.
As evident in the agenda for Monday’s (Sept. 13) council meeting, the city’s director of finance is now a gatekeeper in the grant application process, taking some of the heat off the mayor and council.
And, it’s not good news for two of the more recognized organizations in the city.
In his report to council, Dan Sheridan reminds members “Successful applications under the current (grant) policy are more likely to be for special events or one-time start-up funding for new community initiatives that align with council’s strategic priorities.”
Sheridan continues, “Grant applications that request funding for expenses that an organization incurs through its normal course of operations are not recommended for approval.
“These could be salaries, advertising or facility repairs, for example. Even costs that are one-time in nature can be considered operating costs if they are used to support the organization’s normal course of operations.”
Quite a tightening of the rules in what has been a loosey-goosey undertaking in the past.
In recent years, the St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre, the Talbot Teen Centre, the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre and St. Thomas Cemetery Company have benefitted most from the pool of money available.
Do they all pass the sniff test quoted above?
During this year’s budget deliberations, it was agreed council grants to community groups and organizations were to be cut by $75,000, leaving about $210,000 to distribute in 2021.
Getting down to specifics, the STEAM Education Centre had applied for $3,500 for its successful re//BUILD.IT community program whereby the centre is offering free refurbished desktop computers to students in need of a home computer.
That application was turned down by council on July 12.
Sheridan’s recommendation on a second application is to again deny funding as it “is not eligible under the city’s Community Grant Policy because the request is deemed to assist with operating costs.”
A similar verdict with an application by Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Thomas Elgin.
They are requesting a $3,500 grant to partially fund their promotional campaign to
recruit mentors 55 years of age and older to help reduce the wait times for at-risk youth in St. Thomas.
“While staff recognizes the importance of the community work done by these organizations, our task is to provide an opinion on whether each submission is eligible under the city’s Community Grants Policy.”
According to the organization’s application, individuals in that age bracket “have high
volunteer retention rates while providing high quality mentoring but have been more difficult to recruit.”
Sheridan’s recommendation to council: “Big Brothers Big Sisters’ application is recommended to be denied in accordance with the city’s Community Grants Policy as the request constitutes an operating grant.
“This request is considered an operating grant because mentor recruitment costs are incurred as part of the organization’s normal business operations to support their existing set of services.”
Somebody’s making the tough decisions here.
However, Rainbow Optimist Club Southern Ontario Inc. is getting the thumbs up.
Last month, the Elgin County Pride Spiritual Celebration was held in Pinafore Park “to show support to the LGBTQ2+ youth, educate the community and create opportunities for everyone to participate and feel included in their community.”
The group is asking the city to waive the bandshell rental fee of $281.55.
Sheridan advises council, “This is considered an eligible application under the city’s grant policy, it is recommended the city approve Rainbow Optimist Club’s request and reimburse their rental fee.”
If the latter request is approved by council, there remains just shy of $14,000 in this year’s community grant budget.
And Sheridan concludes in his report, “While staff recognizes the importance of the community work done by these organizations, our task is to provide an opinion on whether each submission is eligible under the city’s Community Grants Policy.”
Council now has a concrete – albeit stringent – community grant policy. Will members of council abide by the finance director’s recommendations?
GETTING ACROSS HIS CROSSWALK MESSAGE
There was no shortage of support in the council chamber Tuesday (Sept. 7) for Earl Taylor’s call to make downtown courtesy crosswalks more pedestrian-friendly.
A letter from the chairman of the Downtown Development urged council members, “As we move toward the next phase of the Talbot Street reconstruction, I ask that the city consider installing a signalled crosswalk at all current crosswalks.
“I ask that this crosswalk change be implemented along Talbot Street as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of 2021.”
Council unanimously approved a request to have the city’s environmental services department prepare a feasibility report to be presented at a future meeting.
Coun. Steve Peters took it a step further.
“I would like to see this report more extensive than just the downtown.”
He referenced a “dangerous” crossing on Kains Street at St. Catharine.
“I’m sure we’re all privy to others in the community,” continued Peters.
“I’m fully supportive of this,” added Coun. Steve Wookey, “this has been a pet peeve of mine for years.
“We’ve been told all crosswalks are created equally, but they don’t look equal. So, the challenge is when they’re busy and or fast-moving, it’s very easy to miss who is on the sidelines.
“I think it is money well spent for us as a community, for both drivers and pedestrians.”
City engineer Justin Lawrence pegged the price of converting to lighted crosswalks at between $30,000 to $40,000 per crossing.
STILL IN MONITORING MODE
London has now adopted a policy and neighbouring Oxford County has likewise moved forward with a COVID-19 vaccination policy for municipal staff.
St. Thomas, in the meantime, is still in a holding pattern “and we anticipate very shortly there are going to be some good guidelines in terms of best practices in that whole area that we will take a look at,” according to city manager Wendell Graves.
In the case of London, it announced an updated policy this week that eliminates the regular testing option for unvaccinated employees.
In other words, no jabs then possibly no job.
More of a mandatory policy than other municipalities and employers like hospitals.
The city says employees will have to provide proof of at least the first dose of a vaccine by September 29th, and full vaccination by November 1st.
And, failure to comply will carry penalties that include immediate removal from active duties, disciplinary action, education, suspension or termination.
No doubt the latter option – if ever applied – would face a court challenge.
PROTECTION FOR YOU, PROTECTION FOR OTHERS
Lots of references of late to COVID-19 breakthrough cases.
What exactly are they?
Well, Dr. Joyce Lock, our medical officer of health for the Southwestern Public Health region delved into that topic at the health unit’s Aug. 25 media briefing.
“A breakthrough case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an individual who is fully vaccinated, 14 days after their second dose,” explained Dr. Lock.
“First of all, we know no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. There are always going to be some cases that pop up.”
She continued, “We also know vaccines are slightly less effective in older people and people who are immune-compromised. In Ontario, as of mid-August, only 6.4 per cent of COVID cases are considered breakthrough cases.
“Unvaccinated individuals are 8.1 times more likely to be a case of COVID compared to fully vaccinated individuals.”
Dr. Lock advised a large majority of cases today are in people who have no vaccine coverage or who are only partially protected.
“These vaccines are protecting people from more serious illness, hospitalization and death.”
She added, while more research is required, “it looks as though viral loads are lower and the duration of illness is shorter in people who are vaccinated.
“If this bears out with further research, it means not only does being vaccinated protect you, it protects the people around you.”
Looking at COVID-19 numbers from yesterday (Sept. 10), a total of 361 people across the province are hospitalized with COVID-19, of these, 30 are fully vaccinated, or 8.3 per cent.
WILLING TO STEP UP AND ANSWER THE CALL
On this 20th anniversary of 9-11, it is fitting to reflect on the words of the St. Thomas Professional Fire Fighters Association, which traditionally remember the events of that day with a ceremony outside the main fire hall in St. Thomas.
Four years ago, their message was as follows.
“Events such as 9-11 serve as a reminder of the dangers facing firefighters and other emergency service workers everywhere. It also highlights the fact that firefighting is becoming increasingly more dangerous and complex in nature.
“Marking the date of this tragedy allows firefighters, police, EMS and the communities they serve, to unite for a common purpose.”
And two years ago, Mayor Joe Preston remarked, “I realized in the car on the way here, we now have young adults who weren’t alive when 9-11 happened.
“We have to continue to tell the story of what first responders did that day and what first responders continue to do. As the mayor of St. Thomas, I can be nothing but thankful for the work the men and women of the first responding forces do every day.”
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
Visit us on Facebook
And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.