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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Utility merger could power an expanded vision for St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykAs if playing home to this country’s first elevated park wasn’t high enough honour, St. Thomas could be one starting point for an ambitious trail project – an undertaking pinned to the pending merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, based out of Chatham-Kent.
Earlier this week Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, released details of what the St. Thomas Elevated Park will look like when the gate at the eastern approach swings open Aug. 27. 
When the organization acquired the former Michigan Central Railroad trestle – built in 1929 at a cost of $689,000 – the purchase included 4 km of railway right-of-way at the western end of the structure running to Lyle Road in Southwold.

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It’s time to move on, the hostages are beyond the restless stage


city_scope_logo-cmykLaying down the law in the Sutherland Saga originated from an unlikely source this week in the form of Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Hockin, one of the original cast members in the near-decade long run of this soap opera.
Tuesday at the Elgin County Courthouse, Hockin was set to preside over the hearing involving the City of St. Thomas versus Sutherland Lofts owner David McGee.
McGee, through lawyer Valerie M’Garry, is challenging an unsafe building order issued Oct. 28 by the city that gave him until Dec. 15 of last year to provide a detailed work plan and schedule repairs to begin early last month on the four-storey structure.
But, as was the case on Jan. 3, the hearing was a non-starter due to M’Garry’s ill health.

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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.

Complete Streets: Paving the way forward


city_scope_logo-cmykEndorsed Monday by city council, the Complete Street guidelines are “”a shift in mindset from the historical car-centric streets to modern multi-purpose streets that appropriately support all modes of transportation,” advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of capital works.

It’s an ambitious blueprint for the future with an aim to design, create and build streetscapes that accommodate users of all ages and abilities and all modes of transportation including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit users.

However we could argue there is little clear direction on the latter save for continued road reconstruction to lessen the shake, rattle and roll that hastens the demise of city buses. Continue reading

Permanent solution to a temporary fix


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has to be one of the longest temporary fixes in this city’s history. Of course we’re talking about the Bailey bridge installed at Dalewood dam in 1983, at a cost of $35,000.
More than three decades later — and after a bridge load of studies and reports — the one-lane structure is front and centre again on Monday’s council agenda.
More than a year ago — Nov. 17, 2014 to be exact — council authorized staff to engage Stantec Consulting to complete an environmental assessment to help determine the preferred solution for a crossing of Kettle Creek.

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Anything you say will be misquoted


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It’s a tradition dating back to the early days of City Scope in 2005 when we greeted the new year with an overview of the previous 365 days, focusing on the wit and wisdom of those who inhabit the council chamber at city hall.
That custom has continued unabated — albeit expanded — to include quotes from a variety of sources, including Times-Journal readers.
As an unabashed collector of quotes, this flashback is an enjoyable task that neatly ties the preceding 12 months into a tidy packet to open and savor at the demise of another year.
And as American writer and editor Daniel Okrent deftly observed, “I’m afraid we’ll see reporters stop chasing quotes around the same time dogs stop chasing cars.”
With that preamble, let’s glean a year’s worth of columns to capture the essence of 2013 in a local context.
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