Of Mark Twain and the London-centred school board


 city_scope_logo-cmyk“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities.” That’s an observation from David Thompson, chairman of the Near North District School Board in Ontario, gleaned from a St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce news release calling for a moratorium on school closures.
At the May 6 Ontario Chamber of Commerce convention in Sarnia, member chambers adopted a resolution “supporting a moratorium on closures and for organizations including the Chamber to be engaged by the school boards to consult economic impact.”
In St. Thomas and Elgin, the Thames Valley District School board will decided later this month on a proposal to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.

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Talbot Street Heritage Conservation District: Attracting new business by preserving old commercial core


The rich history of the city’s Talbot Street commercial core should be protected through the creation of a heritage conservation district.
That was the recommendation put forth in a presentation to city council Monday by Stantec Consulting, hired to identify and evaluate heritage buildings and landscapes along the downtown corridor.
Preserving examples of Italianate and Edwardian architecture from the halcyon days of commercial growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s warrants designation of a heritage conservation districts stretching from Stanley Street in the west to Alma Street in the east and including the railway lands encompassing the Elgin County Railway Museum, advised Lashia Jones of Stantec Consulting.

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You have been forewarned, this ain’t her first St. Thomas rodeo


city_scope_logo-cmykQuestion for you. What’s a common factor in the demolition of a building and demolition of end-of-life vehicles? Well, in St. Thomas that would be Valerie M’Garry.
For nearly a decade, the London lawyer has steered her client – Sutherland Press building owner David McGee – through the court system, deflecting at every turn attempts by the city to demolish the structure built in 1913.
Twice this year, the hearings have stalled due to M’Garry’s ill health, but at the most recent appearance Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin left no doubt as to what lies ahead in the Sutherland Saga: the matter will be addressed May 24 with or without M’Garry.
“Mr. McGee should take that into account,” cautioned Hockin.

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City and London developer Shmuel Farhi reach deal on west-end properties


After announcing a conditional offer last April, the city has reached a deal with London developer Shmuel Farhi for the purchase of two Talbot Street properties.
City manager Wendell Graves announced the deal Wednesday morning that includes the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending south to Centre Street.
The property includes four homes on Queen Street.

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Nothing says summer like a circus under the big top


city_scope_logo-cmykThere’s no denying he’s chuffed an authentic, European-style circus will entertain at a dozen performances this summer in St. Thomas. But what really has Sean Dyke pumped is the big top tent under which it will perform.
Massive may be a more apt descriptor. The tent is 16,000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2,000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.
Now those are numbers the general manager over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation can really sink this teeth into. A tent with those dimensions shouts possibilities.
Of course the touring Canadian-Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts” – will occupy the Railway City Big Top for two weekends in August, that’s a done deal.

City’s negotiations on Valleyview labour deal deemed ‘bizarre’ and ‘ludicrous’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”

Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.

In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”

To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.

The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.

The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.

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Ascent sale is finalized, and now ratepayers are waiting for financial disclosure


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was late Friday afternoon when the media release arrived announcing completion of Spark Power’s acquisition of Ascent Solutions Inc., a division of Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy).
The pending sale was announced at the beginning of March and involves the Oakville, Ontario firm’s purchase of Tillsonburg-based Tiltran — acquired by Ascent in 2007 — and Belleville operation Tal Trees — acquired in 2009.
Both will operate as members of the Spark Power Group of Companies but function as autonomous, highly integrated operating teams, according to the release.
Tiltran and Tal Trees specialize in constructing and maintaining medium to high voltage substations and power lines, engineering services and equipment sales and offer 24/7 emergency response.
The combined businesses include 53 employees based in the two locations.  Continue reading