St. Thomas Transit strategic plan: ‘Any change is better than what we have now’


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city’s much-maligned transit system may very well become a greatly relied upon people mover if council endorses the recommendations of the soon-to-be-released Strategic Transit Plan.
The proposed changes would involve route and schedule adjustments, the introduction of demand-responsive transit (DRT), the possibility of larger buses and electric bus technology and a pilot project to explore regional bus service.
At Monday’s (Nov. 18) reference committee meeting, Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting and city engineer Justin Lawrence presented an overview of recommendations to members of city council.
The plan, which is 95 per cent complete, drew favourable comments from all of council, including the stark observation from Coun. Joan Rymal that “any change is better than what we have now.”

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Parents and elected officials get their say on pending Elgin county school closings


city_scope_logo-cmykThe mayors from a pair of Elgin county municipalities along with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek made their best pitch Tuesday (Nov. 19) at a special meeting of Thames Valley District School Board trustees.
But it was a member of the Wilson family of Malahide who hit the ball out of the park in a bid to rescind a TVDSB motion to close New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
The meeting was held to allow public input on a motion introduced last month by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock to reverse a decision to close the pair of schools next year.
After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools two years ago, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school.
Fifteen delegations were presented during the two-hour meeting with Yurek suggesting the construction of a smaller school than originally proposed in Belmont could allow the two threatened schools to remain open.

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A clear case of neglect, however ‘reasonable doubt’ lingers in the death of Lady


city_scope_logo-cmykJustice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option.
Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected.
Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7.
Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.

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‘We heard more about Doug Ford than we heard of any other leader, including Andrew Scheer.’ – MP Karen Vecchio


city_scope_logo-cmykProving her inaugural run at federal politics was no one-hit-wonder, Karen Vecchio cruised to an easy victory in Monday’s federal vote.
She will represent the constituents of Elgin-Middlesex-London for a second term after garnering just shy of 31,000 votes, up from 28,000 in 2015.
Liberal hopeful Pam Armstrong was a distant second with just over 14,000 votes.
That is far less than the 17,642 gained by Lori Baldwin-Sands in 2015.
We caught up with a battle-weary Vecchio on Thursday for a lengthy conversation on her local success which was tempered by the failure of leader Andrew Scheer to power past the Justin Trudeau Liberals.
To open the discussion, we asked Vecchio about the strain she underwent running a 40-day campaign marathon.

“You’re going every single day from dusk till dawn. And honestly, the thing that keeps you going is all the volunteers that surrounded you. But physically, you are getting drained, mentally, you’re ready to go. You’re going, going going, but physically, you’re getting tired. But it’s really hard when one time I had a 93-year-old lady who coordinated 16 volunteers. You’re not going to say ‘no.’
“So, I just kind of went to the pace that my volunteers were at. That kept me going every day. Hard, hard, hard, and it was wonderful. I’m surrounded by really hard-working people that motivate me every day.”

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It was all hands on deck atop new Dalewood Bridge


city_scope_logo-cmykThe undertaking has been characterized as “a once in 100-year opportunity to create something inspiring.”
The project in question is the new, graceful Dalewood Bridge replacing the Bailey bridge installed at Dalewood Dam as a temporary structure in 1983 at a cost of $35,000.
That long-in-the-tooth span was finally deemed unsafe in November of 2017 and closed permanently, forcing many city residents to alter their travel patterns.
In a report to council in December of the previous year, the city’s manager of capital works David Jackson noted, “Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years. With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity.”
And, that is exactly what is now spanning the water at Dalewood Dam. Continue reading

Doling out St. Thomas grant money: the city’s own cap-and-trade program?


city_scope_logo-cmykCity council’s reference committee meetings – held immediately prior to the regularly scheduled council sittings – tend to be straight forward, down-to-business sessions with an abundance of information and plenty of questions.
While very informative, they can be a tad on the dry side.
Well, a dramatic change could be in order for Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) which begins at 4:30 p.m. and will see members determine how to dole out community grants for the year.
In the past, this has been a totally unstructured affair with little in the way of guidelines to follow.
The overarching target – seldom adhered to – has been one-half per cent of the general tax levy or in the $250,000 range.
Last year, even with an attempt to pare back some of the requests, the city still awarded almost $330,000 in grants.
For 2019, council has received funding asks from 18 groups or organizations seeking a total of $455,600.
Some tough decisions are in order Monday.

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Transforming Fingal’s old ball diamond into a heritage jewel


The crack of a wooden bat meeting a leather-covered baseball at the old ball diamond in Fingal is but a distant memory, however the Union Road site of games hosted by numerous editions of local teams is soon to be transformed into a heritage park.
A fixture into the 1960s, it was replaced the next decade when the Optimist Club provided Fingal with a more modern facility.
Southwold still maintains the green space north of the main intersection – site of the Fingal Foundry and Machine Shop – and a few years ago, a number of Fingal residents started having yard sales to raise money for playground equipment. Continue reading