The agenda for Monday’s (Jan. 16) council meeting reveals what should prove to be a no-punches-pulled deputation from C.J. Allen.
He is the chair of the Good Vibes Community Association (GVCA)board of governors.
If you are not familiar with the GVCA, it was the producer of last year’s inaugural Summer Harvest Festival held in Pinafore Park.
A well-attended event that is to become an annual attraction in the park.
Allen has outlined four areas of discussion and with deputations limited to 10 minutes, he’s going to have to move quickly through his presentation.
First up is GVCA’s experience and feedback concerning the city’s special event process and the interaction with city departments, specifically in relation to last year’s festival.
Next up is a look at the city’s strategic plan and specifically Commitment 1 under the Vibrant Community banner.
This area of the plan has a mandate to “Enhance opportunities for connection and development to promote growth for people and businesses in the city.”
After a much-enjoyed two-week Christmas hiatus, City Scope returns eager to document what transpires in the new year and what got us to this point over the past 365 days. When looking back at 2022 – the fourth and final year for the previous municipal council – St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston lists housing as the top story. And Preston is quick to add growth in the city is not going to stop any time soon. “We’re excited with what we’ve been able to accomplish on housing and have left bookmarks as to how we can move forward. “Yes, it’s probably the Number 1 story across Ontario and we feel very comfortable with St. Thomas at all ranges, from the homeless side to the single-family homes side, have made incredible progress.” Preston goes on to note the work undertaken in the past four years paves the way for what needs to be accomplished on the housing front by the recently elected council. In reflecting on other accomplishments of city council in the past year, Preston turns to the acquisition of 800 acres of farmland east of Highbury Avenue.
The Inn, the city’s emergency shelter which opened back in January, has a new executive director. Brian Elliot, who came on board last month, was employed in the same role previously with Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario. He replaces interim executive director Pastor Cherisse Swarath. In an interview with Elliot this week, we asked what is it about the emergency shelter and St. Thomas that attracted him to the position. “I’ve been involved with non-profits, one way or another, my entire life and so I really saw The Inn as a place in St. Thomas that had been very progressive in trying to find longer-term solutions to the homeless situation.” To minimize the number of homeless individuals in St. Thomas and Elgin, Elliot stresses the need to work with community partners. “Habitat was all about families and, in some cases, individuals and helping them succeed. And The Inn is no different. We’re working with individuals and we’re finding the right supports and the right solutions to allow them to be more successful in their lives. “I think there are a lot of similarities.”
A coalition of hunger relief organizations in Ontario says 2022 marked the sixth straight year that food banks in the province saw an increase in users and visits. Feed Ontario says 587,000 adults and children visited the province’s food banks a total of 4.3 million times between April 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022. An increase of 15 per cent over the last three years. The organization says in its most recent annual report that the troubling trend appeared to escalate during the most recent year on record. It’s no different at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, confirms general manager Karen McDade. “It is trending upward. It’s probably up since 2019 or even pre-COVID, 53 per cent the demand has gone up at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, easily.” And that increase in demand has resulted in a change in policy at the St. Thomas Elgin Food Bank, explains McDade. “The cost of food, fuel, housing, it has just inflated so much that it is just very difficult for any of our clients to survive. We’ve stuck to a mandate of still doing the hampers that we hand out monthly, but instead of a 30-day timeframe, now it’s 21 days.” McDade adds there are some weeks when the local food bank is helping to feed 400 to 500 people. And that used to be the monthly total, she notes.
The city’s new police chief – as of January next year – wants to ensure the St. Thomas Police Service continues to deliver services to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
That was abundantly evident during our conversation this week with current Deputy Chief, Marc Roskamp.
He’s a 25-year veteran of the St. Thomas Police Service with 16 years in uniform patrol before moving up to the Criminal Investigation Branch and then being appointed Deputy Chief in 2018.
The announcement of the retirement of Chief Chris Herridge and the promotion of Roskamp has an added personal touch.
Born and raised in Chatham, Roskamp’s father was also involved in policing.
“My father was a police officer in Chatham and, coincidently, he retired as the chief of police for the Chatham Police Service.
“So this is quite an honour, both personally and professionally, for myself and my family.
“My research tells me it is rare to have a father and then a son reach the office of chief.”
A ceremony was held Wednesday morning on the steps of city hall to commemorate the third annual International Overdose Awareness Day.
Later in the day, The Nameless, in partnership with Southwestern Public Health, held an open house at White Street Parkette in St. Thomas.
That was where Anna Maria Iredale of St. Marys dug deep into her reserve of fortitude to step forward with her personal tale of tragedy.
We’re documenting it in its entirety as a tribute to Anna Maria and her son.
That’s a photo of him below and every picture does tell a story. This one is well worth the time and effort it takes to absorb.
He’s the longest-serving mayor/alderman/councillor currently in St. Thomas and earlier this month, Jeff Kohler declared his intention to seek another four-year term on city council. Kohler has served in that capacity since 2010, but his introduction to municipal politics is a story unto itself. He first threw his hat into the ring in 1997 and finished as third runner-up in that year’s municipal vote. Referencing Eric Bunnell’s People column from April of 2000, Ald. Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Kohler should fill the vacant seat. The top vote-getter in 1997, Terry Shackelton had already moved on to council and the next hopeful in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment to council.
A ‘technical disruption’ that plagued Elgin county through April was confirmed yesterday (May 13) as “a cyber security incident” in a media release.
The attack impacted the county’s website and email system.
And now the county is confirming some personal information has been breached, however, there is no evidence this data was used to commit fraud or identity theft.
We spoke with County of Elgin CAO Julie Gonyou yesterday for elaboration on the incident.
She advised, “From April 1st to the 27th, we were navigating a cyber security incident so we had our network down with the exception of a couple of critical functions for long-term care.
“We brought the network back up and our cyber security experts who we hired as consultants alerted us on May 3 to a data breach with information dumped on the dark web.
“By the time we found out we had resumed normal operations so we do believe there is a connection.”
As to how many individuals have been impacted by the breach, Gonyou responded, “in and around 330 and within that 330, there are two levels of notification.
Earlier this month, the province announced the St. Thomas Police Service is to receive $786,925 in funding for community-based safety and policing initiatives.
That should be tempered by the fact funding is spread over three years.
A portion of the money will support an initiative to deal with a modern-day reality in the majority of communities across Ontario while the remainder will support a local program that is a throwback to policing from a bygone era.
In the first scenario, the funding will allow for a uniform officer to remain with the Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST) to ensure a public safety presence.
As Chief Chris Herridge observed a year ago in this corner, “Our community is facing increasing social-related issues resulting in a rise in crime and a feeling of being unsafe in our downtown.
“We immediately need a ‘boots on the ground’ professional health team (mental health, medical, addictions, housing, etc.) in our downtown in partnership with the St. Thomas Police Service who will assist when public safety is a concern.
“The police require a team of experts so we can triage these health-related calls and the appropriate assistance/supports can be provided.”