With all the knocks against the province’s coronavirus attack plan and vaccination roll-out, you have to wonder how much consultation there has been with the local health units and their medical officers of health? In fact, how closely is the government listening to medical authorities at institutions like Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and other experts in the field on a safe back-to-school policy? You can point to the federal government for their handling of the vaccine itself, but is the shortage an easy target when your own program is likewise sputtering and subject to rapid and unexpected about turns? At the grassroots level our local health unit, Southwestern Public Health, is being proactive and has approached the city to obtain use of Memorial Arena as a vaccination hub. The matter is a late addition to Monday’s (March 1) council agenda. As noted in city manager Wendell Graves’ report to members, “Attributes of the site include easy access, good parking and the ability to map out an operational floor plan that would allow for the greatest number of people to be vaccinated as expeditiously as possible.”
The magnificent edifice at the corner of Talbot and Mary Streets, formally known as the Mickleborough building, has had a bit of an uncertain future over the past three years.
It was the former home of Ontario Works before the city purchased it from London developer Shmuel Farhi in March of 2017.
It dates back to the early 1900s and was designed by St. Thomas architect Neil Darrach. Its appraised value at the time of the sale was $4 million.
Under the deal, Farhi Holdings was to donate $2.3 million in exchange for a tax receipt and the city would pay the remaining $1.7 million.
The intent at the time was to partner with the Central Community Health Centre in hopes of consolidating their operations into the structure that once housed the British mainstay Marks and Spencer in the 1970s and Huston’s Fine Furniture into the 1990s.
Added to its functions this year was transforming a portion of the stately building to serve as a day shelter for the homeless.
A far cry from the home of fine furniture.
City council will hold two meetings this coming week to begin deliberations on 2021 proposed operating and capital budgets.
The first will start immediately after Monday’s (Dec. 7) council meeting which begins at 5 p.m., with the second to be held the following day starting at 5 p.m.
As it stands now, the budget calls for a 2.48 per cent increase to the property tax levy next year.
Capital projects as proposed would require just under $41 million in funding and, if passed by council, would mark the largest capital budget where debt was not drawn.
Items in the capital budget recommended for approval include up to five electric light-duty vehicles as the city begins to make good on reducing its carbon footprint.
The biggest project at $10.8 million is rebuilding Fairview Avenue from Elm Street to Southdale Line.
Annual road rehabilitation comes in at $2 million and the ongoing Complete Streets program next year will require $6.8 million.
While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in long-term care homes across the province, you only have to look at first-rate facilities like Elgin Manor and Valleyview Home to witness the flip side of the pandemic coin. Neither facility had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and we talked at length with Valleyview administrator Michael Carroll about that and he credits the loyal staff and ongoing support from the city. “The staff here are excellent,” observed Carroll. “They are providing great care to the residents. They are very diligent in protecting themselves when they are out in the community.” Elaborating on diligence Carroll notes, “They are very diligent in ensuring that they are screening themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 or any sickness for that matter. “They’re calling in, they’re getting tested and staying home to not bring anything into the home.” Continue reading →
Video surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street. The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information. In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.” Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.
From 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.
The 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.
Director 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.
Did 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 →