Of fibre optics and financial skeletons in the St. Thomas utility merger closet


city_scope_logo-cmykFrom the promise of a downtown fibre optic network to assurance the St. Thomas office of Entegrus is under no threat of closure, the future is one of exceptional service, according to the top brass at the merged utility.
The trio of heavyweights – including president and CEO Jim Hogan – appeared before council at Monday’s (March 18) reference committee meeting to update members as the one-year anniversary of the St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus merger approaches on April 1.
Their message was one of corporate goodwill. Everything’s going to be fine, Jack. The kind of pat-on-the-head pep talk you get when your share of the pie is only 20.6 per cent.
And, nary a word on why the city received such a minority share when it serves 30 per cent of the total 59,000 customer base.
But more on that financial skeleton in the closet in a moment.

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Heritage hurdle remaining hold up in Alma College redevelopment?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe first report of the city’s site plan control committee for 2019 will be presented to council Monday (Jan. 21) and it deals in
depth with the application filed by the Sierra Group of Companies for the proposed Alma property development.
The Sierra Group is the consultant for Patriot Properties which is purchasing the site and seeks to build a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property.
The development is to be completed in three phases and, when finished, would be comprised of 430 apartment units.
Following a pair of site plan meetings in November and December, the committee passed a resolution recommending council consider the application for final approval.
Patriot Properties has not yet purchased the 11-acre site from London developer Gino Reale, pending completion of soil remediation work and removing what remains of the former buildings.
The residential development would occupy approximately seven acres.

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Where your St. Thomas tax dollars are destined in 2019 (a lot are going to wages and benefits)


 city_scope_logo-cmykDirector of Finance David Aristone has made public the 2019 proposed operating and capital budgets, with city council due to begin deliberations 5 p.m. Monday (Jan. 7).
As outlined in the budget document, this year’s property tax levy is $52.3 million, an increase over last year of 1.8 per cent.
The capital budget target for 2019 is $4,045,000, up from $3.4 million in 2018. Proposed capital projects involve $23.5 million in expenditures.
Some of the key projects flagged for approval include the reconstruction of Elm Street, from Sunset Road to First Avenue at a cost of $8.8 million, none of which will come from the tax levy, but instead from development charges, reserves and water/sanitary/stormwater charges.
Same story for the complete streets program, budgeted for $7 million.

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Are we being led down the wrong rabbit path on utility marriage? Or, how to distinguish a merger from a fire sale.


city_scope_logo-cmykDid you check out the notice in your latest St. Thomas Energy bill? Seems like the utility merger with Entegrus out of Chatham-Kent is moving toward consummation early in the new year, with the new entity to be known as Entegrus Powerlines.
I guess when you only have a 20 per cent piece of the pie you don’t have any say in naming the beast.
And by coincidence, the merger is the subject of a report from city manager Wendell Graves on Monday’s council agenda.
It’s chock full of legalese and ratepayers have the right to a clear explanation of what is about to transpire on the eve of the merger.
More important, what are the long-term financial implications because this appears to be less a merger and more a fire sale.
So, we chatted with Graves on Friday as to what members of council are being asked to vote on as our elected representatives. Continue reading

You have been forewarned, this ain’t her first St. Thomas rodeo


city_scope_logo-cmykQuestion for you. What’s a common factor in the demolition of a building and demolition of end-of-life vehicles? Well, in St. Thomas that would be Valerie M’Garry.
For nearly a decade, the London lawyer has steered her client – Sutherland Press building owner David McGee – through the court system, deflecting at every turn attempts by the city to demolish the structure built in 1913.
Twice this year, the hearings have stalled due to M’Garry’s ill health, but at the most recent appearance Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin left no doubt as to what lies ahead in the Sutherland Saga: the matter will be addressed May 24 with or without M’Garry.
“Mr. McGee should take that into account,” cautioned Hockin.

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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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Imposed salary cap, hey we can dance around that


city_scope_logo-cmykNo disrespect to the hospital’s vice-president, but you can bet Nancy Whitmore was anything but the first choice to replace out-going president and CEO Paul Collins who exits on Oct. 31.

Whitmore will take over the helm in November, but the hospital board of directors did not hire healthcare recruitment firm The MedFall Group only to have them say look from within.

Back in March of this year we talked to board chair Melanie Taylor who asserted the hunt for a new president and CEO would be far-reaching.

“We’re looking to retain the best possible talent who could come from someplace other than southwestern Ontario,” advised Taylor. Continue reading