Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?


city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading

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So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

Overtime and lawyers exact a price on city budget


city_scope_logo-cmykIn his six-month budget monitoring report to city council this past Monday (Sept. 18), the city’s director of financing, David Aristone, is projecting an operating deficit of $25,000 this year.
Aristone cautions, however, there are three areas in which “the city may have some exposure for over expenditures but the magnitude is not known.”
In other words, that operating deficit could balloon rather significantly.
The three areas of concern?
Let’s start with 2017 salary negotiations which would include bargaining with city firefighters. They are seeking a 24-hour shift structure and unless an amicable agreement can be reached, this one will end up in arbitration. Continue reading

Tendering process underway for St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex


While ground is not expected to be broken until June, city council Monday tidied up some of the financial details associated with construction of the St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex, to be located on Burwell Road.
In a unanimous move, council authorized staff to release a tender to pre-qualified contractors based on an estimated construction cost of just over $10 million for the multi-use recreation complex to be housed on a 65-acre, city-owned parcel of land.
Included in the report from finance director David Aristone was a recommendation authorizing him to submit an application to Infrastructure Ontario for a $10 million debenture.

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What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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Council approves 2017 budget; municipal tax levy to increase by 2.31 per cent


A combination of financial pruning and an uptick in residential assessment will hold the 2017 municipal tax levy increase in St. Thomas to 2.31%.
City council Monday approved both the operating and capital budgets for this year following a series of three working sessions held last month at city hall.
At the time of those meetings, the draft budget required a municipal tax levy increase of 3.44 per cent. However an additional $550,000 in levy will be raised this year on residential assessment growth over 2016, resulting in a tax levy of $50.4 million, an increase of 2.31 per cent. Continue reading

The downtown garbage doesn’t migrate to warmer climes


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you’re thinking the downtown core is again this winter cloaked in a decidedly shabby mantle, your mind is not playing tricks.

That observation has not escaped the attention of Downtown Development Board chairman Earl Taylor.

“The city took away our garbage cans again this year,” advised Taylor in a recent conversation, “and you know what happened two years ago.”

That would be the stretch of winter in 2015 when – and we’re not joshing here – the city undertook a study to determine what happens when you take away most of the garbage cans along Talbot Street.

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