As far as policies go, the city’s proof of vaccination procedure appears designed more to accommodate employees who may balk at getting a COVID-19 jab.
In the process, avoid any disruption to the provision of services at city hall.
And, if approved Monday by council, those hesitant or unwilling to be vaccinated would be compensated for holding out as long as possible.
The proof of vaccination policy report, authored by Sandra Schulz, Director of Human Resources, indicates these procedures will apply to all members of council and committee appointments, active city employees, volunteers and students.
They will all be required to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19; or request an exemption due to a medical or creed/religion reason(s) under Ontario Human Rights Code for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and undertake regular testing; or complete a COVID-19 vaccination educational session and undertake regular testing.
Requests for exemption will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
All Valleyview employees and members of the St. Thomas Police Service are governed by separate proof of vaccination policies.
Assuming approval is received from council, the policy will take effect Tuesday (Nov. 2) morning and all individuals covered by it will have to submit proof of vaccination or request an exemption for doing so by Nov. 19.
The implementation of requirements for regular rapid antigen testing and/or completion of vaccination education sessions outlined in the policy begins November 22.
“This policy will stay in effect indefinitely to address risks and impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, noting the duration of the pandemic is unknown.”
Under the policy, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals will need to undergo regular testing.
Not to worry, the city will reimburse the cost of the rapid testing until December 31.
The cost is approximately $40 per rapid test and the weekly cost is estimated to be $1,500 – $2,500.
In other words, 20 to 30 employees could possibly follow this stream.
These costs will be offset by Safe Restart Funding provided by the province.
So those who are unvaccinated or decline to disclose their vaccination status will need to undergo testing at least twice per week which must be administered by a third-party provider and self-testing results will not be accepted.
Keep in mind, the city will pay for this testing until the end of the year.
Rapid antigen testing is to be completed outside of normal working hours and proof of a negative test must be provided to a supervisor before the employee’s regular work shift.
Those unvaccinated who decline to disclose their vaccination status will also have to attend a mandatory education program, which consists of a 30-minute video.
As for employees who fail to comply with this policy?
Well according to the report to council, they may, – may, not will – be subject to progressive disciplinary action, up to and including termination, and/or leave without pay not exceeding 60 calendar days, at which time an employee’s status will be reviewed.
A lot of wiggle room in the above paragraph.
Schulz concludes, “This policy will stay in effect indefinitely to address risks and impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, noting the duration of the pandemic is unknown.
“The policy will be reviewed regularly and updated as new information, data, and public health guidance is shared.”
Of note, will the vaccination status of mayor and council be made public?
TRANSIT REVIEW BRINGS SERVICE REVISIONS
The six-month review of the new Railway City Transit operations – to be presented to council Monday (Nov. 1) opens with a cautionary note.
“The goal of public transit is to provide the maximum value to the most possible riders by distributing the available budget to the highest density of riders in time or geographically. Adjustments in routes/schedule/stops may decrease service for some riders but will benefit others.”
Not exactly warm and fuzzy.
In any event, the review is based on input “from riders, resident non-riders, some non-city residents, Voyago – the transit provider – and city staff,” according to Matthew Vriens, Manager of Roads and Transportation.
While quite thorough, the report itself is not an easy read and the graphics require elaboration which, no doubt, will be provided at the council meeting.
Although some dissatisfaction was received with the hourly service on all routes except Talbot Street, the weekly ridership has increased 25 per cent from 2,110 to 2,639 rides.
The new Sunday service is being well received, according to the report, with an estimate of 2,500 trips per year, post-COVID.
That works out to about 50 riders per Sunday so there is obvious room to better market this new Railway City Transit feature.
It is interesting to note many of the comments bemoaned the lack of a stop at the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre and that has now been addressed.
Also requested was the addition of more stops along the busy Talbot Street route which operates on a 20-minute headway.
Westbound service will now include stops near Moore Street and East Street.
Eastbound service will soon feature stops near the transit depot and opposite Pearl Street.
And, a new on-demand stop along Burwell Road near the fire station is on the way.
An earlier start to service in the industrial area is also recommended.
Unfortunately, no word back from the province at this time to fund a regional transit service.
This would include service between St. Thomas and south London, likely the transit hub at White Oaks Mall.
Oh for the days of the L&PS!
We eagerly await a response from Isabelle Nethercott, City Scope’s unofficial transit consultant.
WALNUT MANOR PROVED MORE THAN A FIXER-UPPER
Well, you can’t possibly say this comes as a surprise.
SupportiveLiving.ca, the owner/operator of Walnut Manor has turned its back on the decrepit facility and announced earlier this month the permanent closure of the home.
This comes after Southwestern Public Health shut down the facility on July 7 until a series of health and safety violations were remediated.
Leading up to a Section 13 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act being issued to close Walnut Manor due to the existence of significant health hazards, five inspections were undertaken.
Southwestern Public Health conducted a series of inspections on June 3, 11, 22, 29, and July 6 that revealed ongoing violations at the site, including extensive mould contamination, rodent and bed bug infestations, sanitation issues, and a lack of hot running water.
All of this came on the heels of an exterior fire in May in which, luckily, no one was injured.
In the months that followed, Vishal Chityal of SupportiveLiving.ca undertook no remedial work and the abandoned home was subject to vandalism.
“After operating Walnut Manor in St. Thomas Ontario for over 8 years, it is with mixed emotion that we announce the permanent closure of the home.”
At the time the order was issued, the health unit noted, “This location has a history of public health violations with progressive enforcement actions taken over the past several years.”
With these background details in mind, the note of closure posted on the SupportiveLiving.ca website is laughable in its lack of sincerity.
It is far from humorous for the residents displaced by the health unit order who endured deplorable conditions and who, mercifully, have found accommodation elsewhere in the city that rates higher on the housing scale than the hovel that was their previous home.
Here is what is posted to announce the abandonment of Walnut Manor.
“After operating Walnut Manor in St. Thomas Ontario for over 8 years, it is with mixed emotion that we announce the permanent closure of the home.
“The historic home, located at 57 Walnut Street, now over 130 years old, has seen many changes over the decades, and most recently operated as a SupportiveLiving facility. With the ageing and ailing infrastructure of the building, we have faced a number of challenges in recent years making it increasingly difficult to operate.
“SupportiveLiving.ca CEO Vishal Chityal made the difficult decision not to reopen the home. In cooperation with a local developer, there are plans for the property to be repurposed as new housing units in the near future.
“SupportiveLiving.ca is thrilled that this beautiful property will continue to provide housing in the St. Thomas community and wish its new developer the best of success in their future project.”
The following paragraph is a mystery as we are not aware of any other properties in St. Thomas owned by Chityal, and for that matter neither is the St. Thomas Fire Department which had issued its own work orders on Walnut Manor.
“SL’s other St. Thomas projects, however, will continue on with our transitional housing, culturally specific housing for members of the Indigenous community, safe haven housing for victims of domestic violence and our affordable housing units continuing operation.
“We would like to thank our many supporters, residents and advocates in the St. Thomas community for their tireless and continuing support throughout the years!”
Well, City Scope would love to hear from any of these supporters and advocates in St. Thomas. Our contact info can be found on the page.
And why have you remained so quiet for the past eight years?
We pondered last week when mayor and council will resume meeting in the chambers at city hall. That warranted a call to the person in the know, city manager Wendell Graves.
“We’re hoping to get that happening before the end of November,” advised Graves.
“We’ve been doing some renovations in there and using some new technology.”
Looks like council members will return to regular programming in the not-too-distant future.
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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.