The past few days were a good news/bad news rollercoaster ride for the St. Thomas Police Service. On the positive side, the service was the recipient of $870,000 in provincial dollars under the new Community Safety and Policing (CSP) Grant program over the next three years. In total, the province is investing $195 million in the initiative. According to a media release announcing the investment, the police service “is collaborating with several community agencies to better support survivors of human trafficking as they go through the investigative process. “The funding will help provide ongoing training to enhance frontline officers’ knowledge and abilities in supporting survivors, add a new Street Crimes police officer, provide the necessary resources to maintain the position of Technological Crimes Investigator and help develop a social media awareness campaign to encourage the public to be an active police partner on the issue of human trafficking.”
More investment is needed in infrastructure; a number of city assets could be pared; there is a call from the treasurer to address user fees, some of which are too low; and be prepared for several rounds of employee bargaining. That’s the St. Thomas financial picture for the coming year. With a minimum amount of fuss – read little spirited debate – and the complete absence of pencil sharpening, council this week approved a draft of the city’s 2020 budget. Members were content to rubber-stamp the budget which will see a 2.43 per cent increase in the municipal property tax levy next year. That’s dependant on the results of contract bargaining on several fronts at city hall. More on that momentarily.
Earlier this month, council unanimously approved recommendations from the planning department concerning amendments to the city’s official plan to support hotel and apartment use at Elgin Centre (formerly Elgin Mall). The report from Jim McCoomb, manager of planning services for the city, followed a public meeting held July 15 where some residents expressed concerns about noise emanating from the hotel, snow removal and storage, fire safety for the upper levels of the hotel and parking and traffic. A traffic assessment study submitted to the city concluded, “the proposed redevelopment of a portion of the existing Elgin Centre shopping mall will not significantly change the existing roadway traffic volumes and on-site parking accommodation.” It was noted a petition had been received signed by 40 individuals opposed to the proposal.
Is it a case of listening to the people or backpedalling in the face of stiff opposition? The agenda package for Monday’s (June 3) city council meeting includes a letter from Premier Doug Ford with regard to cost-sharing with municipalities for land ambulance, public health and childcare services. The proposed cuts to joint funding were to come into effect this year even though municipalities have already set their 2019 budgets and tax rates. The funding changes are a move by the Ford government to address the province’s $15 billion annual deficit and $347 billion long-term debt.
The St. Thomas Police Service was the focus of national media attention last week, a baffling turn of events for one member in particular. A survey launched last weekend went somewhat viral in a most unexpected fashion and responses to Tanya Calvert’s poll ultimately may be put under the microscope for a future research paper, according to a CBC story. Calvert – corporate communications coordinator with the service – took to Facebook last Friday (April 12) to ask the question should the city’s police service “publicly release the names of all people who are arrested for trying to purchase sex.” A hot-button issue that boiled over on the police Facebook page. In the span of just two days, the survey generated close to 4,000 votes and well in excess of 400 comments from far beyond St. Thomas. In fact, there was feedback from across the country and into the U.S. And the survey says: 59 per cent of respondents are opposed to naming names.Continue reading →
For the second time in less than a month, Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands failed in her bid to have council endorse a motion to declare a climate emergency in the city. So, you have to ask what is the motivation behind this motion that Baldwin-Sands admits is purely symbolic in nature? Well, if you were one of the several dozen supporters in the public gallery Monday (April 15) and you listened objectively to what was espoused by seven councillors, the mayor and city manager, then you should have your answer. The motion, tabled by the member of council who is seeking the Liberal nomination for Elgin-Middlesex-London riding in this fall’s federal vote is, pure and simply politically motivated.
There is no challenge whatsoever as to the merit of the program, what is of dire concern is the hand-to-mouth existence experienced at this time in keeping a Canadian Mental Health Association response worker as a resource for St. Thomas Police. Earlier this month, city council approved an $18,000 expenditure that will allow clinician Alex Paterson to remain with the service until the end of June. She has been on board since October of 2017 when a one-year pilot program was launched. Several extensions ensued, with the latest set to expire at the end of the month, allowing St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge additional time to explore funding opportunities with the province and the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). We talked to Herridge this week to ascertain what financial gateways are open to him to ensure financial stability for a resource that has proven itself from the get-go.Continue reading →
Thirteen months after city council was apprised of plans to revitalize the Alma College property, members are being asked Monday (March 18) to endorse a heritage easement agreement with the developer, Patriot Properties. If approved by council, the motion would – according to a report from city manager Wendell Graves – “direct staff and the city’s solicitor to undertake the required administrative processes and make application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.” Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title.Continue reading →
The Town of Aylmer is already on board and now St. Thomas has the opportunity to partner with that municipality on the implementation of a community notification/alert system. Last year Aylmer, in conjunction with a pair of local industries – the Integrated Grain Processors Co-op ethanol plant and Air Liquide – entered into an agreement with ICEsoft Technologies of Calgary to purchase their Voyent Alert system. The firm’s website notes, “The flexible platform serves the dual purpose of alerting and advising residents during a critical incident as well as providing targeted day-to-day communication services.”Continue reading →