Childcare spaces disappear as the result of a ‘soft’ business case


city_scope_logo-cmykA total of 88 critically needed childcare spaces in the city have just evaporated into thin air. Along with the spaces, $2.6 million in provincial funding – in hand – now has to be returned as the city has been unable to not only complete the project, it hasn’t even put a shovel in the ground.
And ultimately, you have to double back to the comment from city developer Peter Ostojic, why is the city involved in building affordable housing units themselves?
Peter and his brother Joe have completed several affordable housing developments in St. Thomas and Aylmer.
“If the joint goal of our community is to provide as much affordable housing for people (as possible), it is important that the private sector be the primary delivery agent,” advised Peter more than a year ago.”
So, what have childcare spaces to do with affordable housing?
Let’s join the dots.
Phase 2 of the social services hub at 230 Talbot Street was to include additional affordable housing plus a childcare facility. Back in July of 2019, city manager Wendell Graves admitted the cost of construction per residential unit was projected to be “fairly high” at $290,515 per unit.

Continue reading

The latest COVID-19 shutdown: Province can’t afford to have businesses go out of business


city_scope_logo-cmykYou had to have seen it coming. After a week of new COVID-19 cases above 2,000 per day across the province, we will spend the month of April in another shutdown.
In reality, however, there are very few changes from our region’s past few weeks in the Orange zone of the COVID-19 colour-coded restrictions.
As asked of Premier Doug Ford during Thursday’s announcement, these restrictions have been in effect in the province’s hotspots with little effect, what makes you think they will have an impact now?
We asked Downtown Development Board chairman Earl Taylor how the small, independent businesses in the city are faring so far and what impact will this latest strategy have on their bottom line?
Being able to open to 25 per cent capacity “I think is better than what we had last time,” observed Taylor.
“I think the government has finally come to terms with the fact they can’t afford to have these businesses go out of business. So, I think it is better than nothing.” Continue reading

St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge: ‘an increasingly expensive police response is the wrong direction’


city_scope_logo-cmyk

It’s time to get serious and address the escalating challenges looming over the city’s downtown core, advises St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge.
After a couple of phone calls this week and an exchange of emails, Herridge took the time to present a case for taking a leadership role in confronting those challenges.
“We are seeing a trend where drug and property crime has been increasing,” notes Herridge. “If we do not get a handle on the issues we are currently facing, the big city issues that quickly arrived here three to four years ago are going to turn into the serious issues occurring in larger centres across our country.
“As I have mentioned many times in the past, St. Thomas is not unique to the social, health and crime problems being experienced, but we can be leaders in addressing these issues if we focus on where the challenges are and, right now, the challenges are predominantly in and around our downtown.”
Herridge starts with a resource primer that should be pinned within easy reach for downtown merchants and their staff.

Continue reading

There is no ‘bait and switch’ with the Alma College Square development


city_scope_logo-cmykEvident by the questions raised by a couple of councillors at Monday’s (March 15) meeting, the Alma College Square development still generates concern even while the skeleton of Phase 1 reaches skyward.
While council did approve amendments to the plans for the three-tower residential development, unanswered questions remain.
Issues revolve around traffic flow, the final colours of the structures, why the site plans seemed to be in a constant state of flux, Community Improvement Plan funding and, most puzzling of all, why was a Wellington street access to the former Alma College property nixed?
Developer Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, at times, added to the confusion, in particular as to what shades and hues the exterior of the buildings will wear.
Coun. Jeff Kohler perhaps put it best when he observed, “I’m certainly not going to accept buying a red car when I ordered a blue one.”
A reference initially alluded to by Coun. Steve Peters.

Continue reading

A defining moment in the history of St. Thomas’ Memorial Arena to be written this spring and summer


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has a long and storied history. Of course, the St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Centre was long the home of the St. Thomas Stars and before that, the Pests and the Barons.
How many of you remember the short-lived Wildcats of the Colonial Hockey League who called Memorial Arena home for three years before morphing into the London Wildcats and then the Dayton Ice Bandits?
The old barn is seeped in hockey history but its defining moment may very well be written this spring and summer.
Over the past couple of weeks, the venerable facility built in 1953 has been transformed into an impressive vaccination hub where tens of thousands of area residents – certainly far more than the 2,600 or so hockey fanatics who could jam the stands and walking track for a game – will wend their way through the structure and emerge after a shot of insurance against the coronavirus.
Tremendous gratitude is owed Cynthia St. John, Jaime Fletcher and the rest of the hard-working staff at Southwestern Public Health and their community partners who have ironed out every last detail to open up the vaccination clinic Monday morning to get down to the business of corralling the coronavirus.

Continue reading

Is the province interfering in or ensuring compliance with municipal codes of conduct?


It will be interesting to gauge the response at city hall

city_scope_logo-cmyk
after the province announced yesterday (Friday) it is launching consultations with the municipal sector to strengthen accountability for council members.
To quote the release from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “The province wants to ensure that councillors and heads of council maintain a safe and respectful workplace and carry out their duties as elected officials in an ethical and responsible manner.”

Minister Steve Clark added, “We want to gather input to ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to hold council members accountable for any unacceptable behaviour.”
He went on to note, “It’s critical that everyone feels safe and respected in the workplace, and that they know there are accountability measures in place for members who violate codes of conduct.”
It was two years ago that an unnamed member of council was the subject of a signed complaint from a city employee alleging an individual of the opposite sex removed a cell phone from a hip pocket, brushed their body against the complainant’s back and casually touched a forearm and elbow multiple times, making the employee feel very uncomfortable.

Continue reading

From slap shots to COVID-19 shots, Memorial Arena takes on a new role


city_scope_logo-cmykWith 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.”

Continue reading

Alma College Square: ‘Something interesting and unique’ appears to be more ho-hum and institutional


city_scope_logo-cmykWe’ve all seen ads like these featuring some product with the disclaimer, ‘May not be exactly as pictured’ or ‘Object appears larger for display purposes’.
Seems that may be the case with Phase 1 of the three-tower residential development rising up on the former Alma College property.
The renderings of the apartment buildings appear different than the original site plans approved by the city.
That was the focus of a lengthy Q&A during the Feb. 12 meeting of the site plan control committee held online with city staff and developer Michael Loewith and his team.
The bone of contention was whether the approved permit drawings for the Phase 1 building are substantially in conformance with the site plan agreement.
Absolutely not, argued Alma College watchdog Dawn Doty – who lives right across the street – and architect Ed van der Maarel, also a neighbour of the grandly named Alma College Square.
The 156-unit Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2022.
Doty has a front-row seat on what is transpiring on the Moore Street property and she noted during the meeting, “Looking at the original site plan drawings, what I’m seeing outside my window is tremendously different than what I first saw. Would you agree with that?”

Continue reading

STEGH lacks ‘basic medical technology’ – CEO Robert Biron


city_scope_logo-cmykThe space is available and waiting, staff are trained and ready to go and the service could be up and running six months after approval.
The choke point in this essential service for St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is provincial Ministry of Health approval.
At Monday’s (Feb. 8) meeting, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron made a compelling presentation to council on the need to equip the facility with an MRI scanner.
Biron referred to it as “A basic medical technology for any community hospital.”
He added, “We are one of the few medium-sized hospitals in the province that does not provide the service.”
Biron continued, “We are one of the few counties in the province that does not have access to the service.”
Very curious indeed in that STEGH has been a designated stroke centre since 2016 but does not have a scanner that is required for treating stroke and is integral in the management of many colorectal and breast cancer cases.
Biron went on to note, “an MRI scanner is essential in the diagnosis and management of orthopedic conditions.”

Continue reading