The new transparency at city hall: Your questions are fair but we don’t want to answer them.


city_scope_logo-cmykIt seemed only a matter of hours after the announcement Volkswagen was to locate its EV battery plant in St. Thomas that crews were on site felling thousands of trees in five wood lots across the 1,500-acre property.
The company involved is CLC Tree Service out of London.
A check of their website and it seems they are more of an operation focussed on tree trimming and removal of diseased or damaged trees in urban areas and not large commercial land clearing.
With heavily wooded areas across the county, is there not a local firm that could have been hired for a project of this size?
What was the tendering process involved and how many firms bid on the job?
A call to Mayor Joe Preston garnered a response of I don’t know, I wasn’t involved.
Why don’t you ask Sean Dyke over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corp?
Fair enough.

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The competition was ‘intense’ however St. Thomas wins the bidding war for Volkswagen EV battery plant


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter about a year’s worth of talks between Volkswagen, and the federal and provincial governments, the deal was made public this past Monday.
The automaker announced it was locating an electric-vehicle battery plant in St. Thomas.
It’s Volkswagen’s first overseas gigafactory.
It’s a logical choice given the city’s location, its proximity to essential minerals mined in Northern Ontario and required for production and the provincial deal just consummated that brings hundreds of acres of Central Elgin land into the confines of St. Thomas.
The plant will be operated by Volkswagen’s battery division, PowerCo.
Few details were made available on the size of the plant, the number of workers to be employed and how much will the deal ultimately cost taxpayers in this country.
More on that in a moment.
Following the announcement around noon on Monday, Mayor Joe Preston advised this is only the beginning.

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St. Thomas/Central Elgin boundary adjustment: ‘Trust is a big part of working together. And in the last six months or so it has been eroded to some degree.’


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Mayor’s Luncheon on Wednesday at St. Anne’s Centre could have been more appropriately billed as A Mayor’s Grilling.
Featuring Southwold Mayor Grant Jones, Central Elgin Mayor Andrew Sloan and St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston, all attention was focused on the latter in what proved to be one of the most lively such functions in recent memory.
All because of recently adopted Bill 63, the St. Thomas-Central Elgin Boundary Adjustment Act, 2023.
The bill allows for the annexation of a portion of Central Elgin to the City of St. Thomas so that the latter can assemble a 1,500-acre parcel of land to attract a mega-industrial project to the city.
It has resulted in a bad taste in the mouths of the city’s neighbours and many unanswered questions.
And so when the floor was opened to questions from the audience on Wednesday, you had to know what direction the conversation would take.
First to the microphone was former Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn who needed no warm-up.

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Land acquisition sends a clear message St. Thomas is actively seeking to attract a significant manufacturing investment


city_scope_logo-cmykSt. Thomas this week upped the stakes in a bid to entice a large manufacturing operation to the city.
On Wednesday the city, in partnership with St. Thomas Economic Development Corp., announced it is assembling an 800-plus acre parcel of land in the area of Ron McNeil Line and Highbury Avenue.
Sean Dyke, EDC CEO said this is in anticipation of attracting a mega industrial development to the city.
“The land we have assembled for this one is aimed at trying to attract a large investment.
“When I say large, I mean on a scale that would be like a single user on a majority portion of that property.”
Dyke added, “More often than not, companies are looking to have shovels in the ground for large investments in months rather than years and I am exceptionally pleased that the city has chosen to take this strategic path forward to encourage a level of long-term success and economic sustainability that will be felt not just in St. Thomas, but across the entire region.”

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Setting the switch to the appropriate track forward for the Elgin County Railway Museum


city_scope_logo-cmykProposed residential development on land currently owned by the Elgin County Railway Museum is an opportunity to revitalize that portion of downtown St. Thomas, stresses developer Doug Tarry.
He is proposing to purchase eight acres of railway land immediately west of the museum at $300,000 per acre for a low-rise residential development that would front onto a new street to be built off Ross Street and north of Jonas Street.
We talked with Tarry on Tuesday of this week (Aug. 3) and he stressed nothing is carved in stone at this point as museum members have yet to approve the sale of the property.
He started by noting the museum is a gem and, “There is such an opportunity to incorporate how that building works and what it is being used for and how we can expand that into a real revitalization of the centre of downtown.”
As to what the housing would look like Tarry advised, “We’re talking apartment units and we don’t have a design done yet because we obviously haven’t bought the property yet.
“But we’re also wanting to bring our expertise to the table to help with the museum revitalization.”

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St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge calls for a ‘two-stream’ criminal justice system


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a great question. How are police supposed to keep this community safe when the courts continually release or deal lightly with repeat offenders?
Some with dozens of outstanding and fail to comply charges.
A revolving door police are stuck in while attempting to deal with a record number of service calls, many involving social and mental health issues.
All of which tax police resources at a time when there is a hue and cry to defund police.
We presented this to St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge this week – which coincided with the release of the service’s 2020 annual report.
A document which revealed a 10 per cent increase in incidents last year while the overall use of force rates for the service dropped by 33 per cent.
The report notes, “This is a very strong indicator of officer awareness, de-escalation skills along with education and training capabilities of our officers.”
Herridge began the conversation by suggesting, “We’ve got to figure out a way to deal with this issue we are having. It’s been termed catch and release and we have to find a way to protect the victim and how do we look after vulnerable people as well.

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October is a good month for pruning


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Progressive by nature is a catchy marketing slogan employed by the County of Elgin that, unfortunately, is not readily applicable to all members of St. Thomas council.
That was painfully evident Monday when a motion to allow internet voting during a portion of the advance polling period in the October municipal election was defeated on a 4-4 vote.
Aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston, Gord Campbell and Dave Warden presented some of the flimsiest arguments possible to maintain the status quo, i.e. the traditional paper ballot.
Had this been evidence in a court case it would have been dismissed as not germane.
The concern seniors would not vote because they prefer the traditional ballot over computer voting is a smoke screen since the paper ballot would remain as the primary method of casting one’s vote.
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CAW study finds job gains aren’t as great as they seem


Ford Canada St. Thomas Assembly Plant


The economic recovery is leaving workers behind, while others are toiling in “survivor” jobs with low pay and little security, states a report released Monday by the Canadian Auto Workers union.

The study, called the Workers Adjustment Tracking Project, followed a group of laid-off workers in three communities — Kitchener, Toronto and Brampton — for one year and concludes they’re struggling to find work.

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Ontario looks beyond the struggling auto sector


Ford Canada St. Thomas Assembly Plant


Ontario’s auto industry is facing ongoing consolidation with the upcoming closing of a Ford Motor Co. plant in St. Thomas in 2011. Last year, General Motors Corp. closed a light truck plant in Oshawa. Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. in Richmond Hill, Ont., says Ontario’s auto industry has lost 50,000 jobs since 2006 and has been hurt by long-term structural change as well as cyclical issues related to the economy.

It is also becoming increasingly difficult to compete with lower-cost plants in parts of the U.S. and Mexico that are not unionized, he says. As a result, he expects Canada’s share of total North American auto production — virtually all of which takes place in Ontario — to drop to as low as 12% during the next four to five years from its current perch of 16%.

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