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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Where your St. Thomas tax dollars are destined in 2019 (a lot are going to wages and benefits)


 city_scope_logo-cmykDirector 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.

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Canada’s singing priest got the ball rolling, now the province’s health minister is singing the praises of a hospice for St. Thomas/Elgin


city_scope_logo-cmykAt one time it appeared to have stalled in its tracks and now a hospice to serve the residents of St. Thomas and Elgin has been given a guarantee of moving forward to completion.
The push began in 2002 with a fundraising concert for Serenity House Hospice, featuring Canada’s singing priest, Rev. Mark Curtis.
Thursday afternoon (Dec. 20) at the CASO station in St. Thomas, MPP Jeff Yurek announced he has received a letter from the province’s health minister supporting a six-bed facility and encouraging the hospice planning committee to submit a capital program application.
“After strongly advocating for a hospice in my riding, I am thrilled to receive a letter from Christine Elliott,” advised Yurek in a media release.
In the letter, Elliott stressed, “Building new hospice beds across Ontario will provide people with end-of-life care and support in a more comfortable setting.”
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For mayoral hopeful Joe Preston, ‘municipal politics is where rubber hits the road’


city_scope_logo-cmykEarlier this week we wrote briefly on Joe Preston’s entry into the St. Thomas mayor’s race, joining Steve Wookey and Malachi Male, who already had declared their intention.
So, how does Preston’s announcement impact  the mayoralty campaign and, if elected, what does he bring to the council chamber?
“The mix on council right now, I know I can work with them,” offers Preston. “I know most of them and I have met with almost all of them while I made my decision. I’ve learned I can work with pretty diverse groups.
“I come to this with a little bit different credentials than others. I put my risks where my mouth is and have gone out and created jobs in this community. I’ve been a community activist involved in a lot of other projects in the community.
“But others come with their own credentials and life skills that can make a good team work.” Continue reading

The departure of CMHA Elgin executive director ‘moved the needle in the right direction’


city_scope_logo-cmyk“All things are positive from the get-go.”
That’s the upbeat assessment of the working environment at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association after the Southwest Local Health Integration Network took a unique approach by appointing a supervisor for the St. Thomas/Elgin operation.
That move, initiated this past spring, was prompted by the report from healthcare consultant Ron McRae which pointed to numerous issues of poor governance and a lack of oversight.
Things had sunk to such a level last October that an information picket was held outside the Centre Street office in St. Thomas by staff – represented by OPSEU Local 133 – who claimed they were working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety. Continue reading

‘You really don’t want labour unrest,’ given Ontario’s new political climate


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter considerable negotiations, a settlement has been reached in a labour dispute involving staff at Closing the Gap in St. Thomas.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remained wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours.
Lynne Easter, staff representative at the OPSEU London Regional Office, confirmed Wednesday (June 27) “We reached a deal . . . and it was ratified by the membership on Monday (June 25).”
The deal was reached through mediation and members “voted overwhelmingly in favour. The reality is nobody wanted a strike. And, given the current political climate, under the newly elected government, public servants are fearful in terms of anyone working for a public dollar is conscientious of that. You really don’t want labour unrest.” Continue reading

Moving forward on revitalization of Alma College property


city_scope_logo-cmykBack in February, city council got a first glimpse of what the Alma College property might look like through the eyes of Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities.
He envisions a trio of seven-storey residential towers on the Moore Street property, with one of the structures replicating the front facade of the main building at the site of the former school for girls.
His concept for the property is “to create something interesting and unique . . . something to last for a long time.”
At Monday’s (May 14) meeting council will get a look at how the development would be situated on the 11-acre property and authorize staff to prepare official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to proceed with the project. Continue reading