St. Thomas Fire Chief Dave Gregory says we’ve got this covered when asked about challenges with the new Volkswagen EV battery plant -‘It’s what we do day-to-day’

city_scope_logo-cmykHe calls it great for St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Fire Chief Dave Gregory likens it to winning the lottery.
Of course, we talked about the announcement earlier this month that Volkswagen is coming to town where it will construct what it refers to as a gigafactory for battery cell manufacturing.
We talked with Gregory earlier this week to get a sense of what that will mean for the fire department in the way of needed resources and planning for when the plant opens in 2027.
“As far as resources and stuff go, I’m unsure at this time because I haven’t seen a footprint or layout of any sort.
“But, it’s what we do,” stressed Gregory. “We have Magna, we have Presstran.
“All the equipment we have, the manpower and the training we do, we’re prepared for anything they will bring to us.”
Gregory doesn’t feel they would need to construct a substation in the new industrial area.

“No, we have enough room at the Redman station (on Burwell Road). It’s fairly large and if, and when we ever need to upgrade, the Redman station will be available to do that.

“It’s going to be big, but it’s nothing we can’t handle, for sure.”

“We’re good the way it sits right now. We have enough employees, we have enough good equipment.”
Gregory references the new aerial truck due to arrive in the coming week.
What about dealing with hazardous materials?
“You have to remember 99 per cent of these places – because I came from the auto industry originally – they usually have in-house hazmat teams and we just aid and assist to what their fire plan or industrial spills plan would be.
“It’s going to be big, but it’s nothing we can’t handle, for sure.
“This is what we do, day-to-day with Formet, Magna and Masco.”


At an announcement on the morning of June 25 2020 in Belmont, then MPP Jeff Yurek had the news Belmont and area residents had been waiting four years to hear.
Yurek Belmont school announcementYurek proclaimed, “the provincial government has approved the tendering of an $8.7 million elementary school in Belmont,” with the rest of that sentence drowned out by applause.
The new school was to accommodate 345 pupils and would necessitate the consolidation of South Dorchester and Westminster Central public schools, two underutilized facilities constructed in 1965.
It didn’t deem like an insurmountable hurdle at the time but the site for the school had not been finalized, although then Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn advised a deal would soon be concluded with an area developer.
The school was to open this fall.
It’s been almost three years since that much-anticipated announcement and in that time the small matter of location has been resolved through the Expropriations Act after no amicable arrangement could be struck between the developer and the Thames Valley District School Board.
It’s a first for the Thames Valley District School Board and definitely not the preferred choice, according to Elgin school board trustee Bruce Smith.
The property is in the sixth phase of the Craigholme Estate subdivision on Concession 7, west of Belmont Road.
Speaking with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack last September, he stressed it was time to get the deal done.
“Surely we can come together. I think there is a willing seller and a willing buyer, thanks to the Province of Ontario’s support.
“So let’s get the deal done and let’s start thinking about kids first.”

“This is a big win. I’ve got to kind of take back my thoughts that governments move slowly. But in this case, it moved fast.”

Well if every cloud has a silver lining, perhaps that is the case with a new school in Belmont.
Yesterday (March 31), Flack announced a “scope change” for the school.
An additional $3.4 million in funding will allow for 507 elementary school spaces, part of the province’s Plan to Catch Up.
We talked to Flack on Friday and he gave us the back story as to what led to the increased school population.
Rob Flack EML PC provincial candidate“Last September, Education Minister Stephen Lecce was in Dorchester . . . and when I was standing there with some of the school board trustees and superintendents, I said let’s get Belmont done. Get the land and let’s get going.
Someone remarked to Flack that when the school finally opens there are going to be “a bunch of portables outside.”
Flack continued, “So I called the minister over and he said resubmit (the school proposal).
“And guess what, Mark Fisher (TVDSB Director of Education) and his team did and three weeks ago Minister Lecce walked up to me, winked and smiled and said, ‘We got the funding.’
Flack added, “This is a big win. I’ve got to kind of take back my thoughts that governments move slowly. But in this case, it moved fast.”
No word on a construction schedule which will depend on the expropriation process.
In a media release yesterday, Fisher remarked, “This is great news for Thames Valley.
“We appreciated the ministry’s responsiveness to the evolving needs of the school community and its flexibility with regard to expanding the Belmont elementary school construction project.”

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What a week for comebacks.
The Blue Jays battle back to clinch their season-opener 10-9 Thursday afternoon in St. Louis.
And, we find a pair of high-profile local officials have ventured out of retirement and are back in the public spotlight.
Wendell GravesFormer city manager Wendell Graves will assume a similar role on an interim basis at the Municipality of Central Elgin.
The vacancy was the result of the resignation of CAO Paul Shipway, whose last day in that capacity was March 10.
Graves, who retired in February of last year, will step in for up to six months to allow the municipality to recruit a new CAO.
Graves’ final day at city hall in St. Thomas had been Feb. 25 of 2022.
After serving for 10 years as CAO at the Town of Aylmer, Graves moved to St. Thomas to become city clerk in 2004. He was promoted to CAO/clerk in April 2011.
And then to city manager, through a reorganization at city hall based on a recommendation of the Dobbie Report of 2014.
Speaking to Graves on his final day, he was looking forward to tapping his maple trees and continuing with his artistic endeavours.
He is a pretty fair artist as his mural “Amusements” will attest.
That will again be put on hold as he adds another chapter to his municipal career.
As for permanently filling the position, “Central Elgin’s Council is seeking a progressive, eager, and self-motivated individual,” according to the job description.
Central Elgin Mayor Andrew Sloan advises there is a need to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible while the recruitment process moves forward.
“We know the recruitment process to retain a permanent CAO can take a few months,” notes Sloan. “We are pleased Mr. Graves has agreed to assist us and we look forward to working with him.”
The compensation range is $161,137 to $191,838.
Meantime, the region’s former medical officer of health, Dr. Joyce Lock, who retired a month after Graves, is returning to that capacity on an interim basis in Haldimand and Norfolk. Dr. Joyce Lock
She too will fill the void on a six-month basis.
Dr. Matt Strauss, who has been in the position since 2021, will be leaving the post on April 1.
Speaking with Dr. Lock the day before her retirement she observed, “Retirement is always this vague endpoint many, many miles on the horizon. And to think I am actually there is astounding.
“We spend so much of our lives working and having our jobs be a major focus in our daily living, so to make the transition to where it will not be, does bring mixed feelings for sure.”
She was an emergency physician for 25 years in the Burlington area before transitioning over to public health and she spent eight years with the health unit.
She added she was looking forward to what she referred to as “someday.”
“Your working years are filled with your work-related hours and in healthcare, there is always lots of time required for continuing education.
“You tend to throw in extra time for those key priorities like family and those other interests, well someday I’ll do that.
“I’m amazed I’m on that threshold of someday.”
Well, once again someday is just a little further down the road for Dr. Lock.

Related posts:

‘A lot of pride in the things I’ve had a small fingerprint on’ – outgoing St. Thomas city manager Wendell Graves

Over the past two years, ‘We’ve all been on a bit of a treadmill’ – outgoing medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock


We’re coming down to the final hours of voting. If you haven’t registered your vote for West Lorne in the 2023 Kraft Hockeyville campaign, do it today and vote often.
You see, the community has skated into the Final 4 of the competition and is pitted against Saint-Anselme, Quebec, Maple Ridge, B.C. and Ste. Anne, Manitoba.
Duncan McPhail Kraft HockeyvilleThey are all larger municipalities, but we’ve got a trump card up our collective sleeve.
And no, it’s not one of those tacky Donald Trump collectible cards.
Give me a break.
You see, we’re doin’ it for Dunc.
That would be Duncan McPhail who died almost immediately after the four finalists were announced.
But, we understand he was aware his beloved West Lorne had made it through.
So today, April 1 at 5 p.m. is the deadline to cast as many votes as you can muster.
And we understand today would have been Dunc’s birthday.
So vote and vote often. Get your friends to vote often.
Heck, get the people you don’t even like to vote often.
Run that ballot count for West Lorne right through the roof.
Bo Horvat is doin’ it. Mike Oliveira and Justin Azevedo are doin’ it. Paralympian James Dunn is doin’ it.
And if you’ve stopped by this corner today then we need you doin’ it.
Because we’re doin’ it for Dunc.
It doesn’t get any better than that.

For more information and to vote, visit

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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.


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