Only a matter of time now for Sutherland Press building


Will it be a case of third-time success for the City of St. Thomas? Monday evening (Sept. 18), city council accepted the $197,000 tender from Schouten Excavating of Watford to demolish the derelict Sutherland Press building that looms over the downtown core.
Schouten had been the successful bidder in 2016 when it was awarded the contract for $101,000.
It’s the third time in nearly a decade the city has attempted to level the building that dates back to 1913. Continue reading

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Land-use planner warns St. Thomas is suffering from ‘sign disease’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a sign of what lies ahead for city staff in St. Thomas. An overview of the proposed 2017 advertising sign bylaw ran into stiff opposition at this week’s reference committee meeting.
Amendments to the existing bylaw to deal with portable signs in the downtown core faced vocal opposition from more than two dozen small businesses and area sign companies.
The bylaw would prohibit portable advertising signs in the downtown business area and limit them to one per commercial lot outside the core and three per industrial lot.
A-board signs would still be permitted but would have to come in off the sidewalk at the end of the day.
It’s a restriction similar to what’s in place in London and Sarnia.

Continue reading

Setting course for Sutherland Press building demolition


 

city_scope_logo-cmykWhile the owner and his lawyer remain ominously quiet, it is onward and upward – or maybe that should be downward in this case – as the city stays the course on a process that will ultimately result in demolition of the Sutherland Press building.
In a conversation Friday with city manager Wendell Graves, he advised a report should come to council for the Sept. 18th meeting dealing with demolition tenders.
“The tenders are due next week,” confirmed Graves. “There was a site meeting (this past week) with numerous contractors. It seems like there is a fair bit of interest from contractors who showed up for the site meeting.”
Should council approve the winning tender bid, would demolition begin shortly afterward?
Continue reading

Will Ontario’s new minimum wage result in maximum economic stress for school bus operators?


city_scope_logo-cmykAs debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades.
The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading

A clearer vision for Alma College property or another dashed dream?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhat lies ahead for the Alma College property might very well come into sharper focus this fall. London developer Gino Reale is optimistic such is the case.
Speaking to him from his home Friday, Reale was upbeat.
“There have been a lot of positive discussions. We’re getting close to some resolutions. But nothing has been inked.”
While he was unable to reveal details at this time, Reale said discussions are underway with a group on the possibility of constructing a small recreation centre on the Moore Street property geared to seniors. Part of the green space could be utilized for a community garden, suggested Reale. Continue reading

Third time lucky as city pursues demolition in Sutherland saga?


Round 3 of the Sutherland Press demolition derby is officially underway. At Monday’s council meeting, city manager Wendell Graves advised the paperwork is being drawn up this week seeking requests for proposal for demolition of the four-storey Sutherland Press building.
It’s the third time in nine years the city has undertaken this process, and the fact the building that dates back to 1913 is still standing is testament to the success of the previous two attempts.

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Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

In 2008, a determination from Justice David Little paved the way to for partial demolition of the top floor of the structure. A process halted almost immediately by Justice Peter Hockin. The same Justice Hockin who, in June of this year, upheld the validity of a pair of work orders issued by the city calling for remedial work to be performed on the structure.
In other words, Hockin concurred with engineering reports undertaken by the city and ruled the building is unsafe.
And that has prompted a third kick at the demolition can.
In between these two attempts, the city in February of 2016 awarded a demolition tender to Schouten Excavating of Watford in the amount of $101,135.
Earlier this month, Graves confirmed  “technically that tender was not active.”
And so, here we go again as the city takes a cautious approach to proceeding with demolition of the building owned by David McGee of Toronto.
Speaking with Graves in his office today (Aug. 22), he made it clear everything must be buttoned down when announcing the winning bid because McGee ultimately will be presented with the bill.

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A conceptual drawing of what the Sutherland Press building might possibly look like if successfully converted into a condominium development.

Will companies be reluctant to submit proposals because of past history?
Graves felt this would not be a problem as there was no shortage of interested parties in 2016.
He added a report should come to council in mid-September with the tender proposals.
Meantime,McGee’s lawyer Valerie M’Garry was unavailable today for comment.
Following Hockin’s ruling in June, she told City Scope “We’re optimistic of approaching the municipality and saying here’s a proposal for you, let’s move forward rather than spending time on appeals and things like that.”
She added at that time,  “I think there’s an onus on both parties. We have to pony up and they have to be willing to listen. Both parties have to be willing to come to the dance. And we can do some things that will assuage the city’s concerns and ultimately be to the advantage of the building.”
Graves confirmed again today, neither M’Garry nor McGee has engaged in any dialogue with the city on the next step following the ruling from Justice Hockin.

Related posts:

Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages

No throwing caution to the wind in this chapter of the Sutherland Saga

After nine years, it’s time to pony up and listen

Thirty days and counting in the Sutherland Saga

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Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case.
Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well.
Start probing.
For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275. Continue reading