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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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

‘If you are fighting battles internally and fearful of things in your own workplace, it doesn’t make for productive work.’ – Turning the corner at CMHA Elgin?


city_scope_logo-cmykLast October, about two dozen staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association stood outside the Centre Street office where they claimed to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
At that time, OPSEU staff representative Carol Warner asserted St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” noted Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.”
That information picket by members of OPSEU Local 133 and the allegations of workplace harassment resulted in the appointment of a third-party investigator by the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) to report on CMHA Elgin’s compliance with its contractual agreement to the LHIN. Continue reading

Salary review at city hall prompts healthy hike in remuneration for senior staff


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Correction: As noted previously by then police chief Darryl Pinnell, the correct number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service earning in excess of $100,000 in 2016 should have been 46 and not 43, making the overall total for that year 113. The increase then for this year is from 46 members to 49.

A report on the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 is included in Monday’s council agenda. This is required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996.
In total, 117 employees eared more than $100,000, that’s up from 110 in 2016.
Breaking down by sector, 49 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are included, up substantially from 43 in 2016.
At the St. Thomas Fire Department, 46 are on the list and that is down by two from the previous year due to retirements.
In city administration, 22 staffers are listed, up three from 2016.
Most notable is the hefty increase in remuneration for some of the senior staff, while most others saw their salary remain relatively stable from 2016. Continue reading

Bridging the gap: Province acknowledges local concerns with new 401 interchange


city_scope_logo-cmykThe province has listened and the stretch of Glanworth Drive known as the farmer’s freeway will remain intact with a new alignment of the overpass at Highway 401.
At a public information centre held Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Stoneridge Inn, London, the Ministry of Transportation unveiled its preferred alternative for interchange improvements at the 401 and Col. Talbot Drive.
The original plan would have seen the Glanworth Drive bridge demolished, forcing farmers to move their massive implements on to busier roads. The new interchange will see the Glanworth Bridge replaced and realigned further east with the roadway repositioned to meet Col. Talbot Drive north of its present junction at Littlewood Drive. Continue reading

Veterans Memorial Garden: Honouring those who never really came home


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you were unable to attend this morning’s (Oct. 28) dedication ceremony, you owe it to yourself to visit Veterans Memorial Garden on Moore Street.
Chairman Herb Warren and his memorial committee – Worth Chisholm, Douglas Nicholson, Coun. Mark Tinlin, Shelly Haycock, Ron Smith and Allan Weatherall – have created a beautiful downtown sanctuary in honour of the men and women who have served and gave their lives in past conflicts.
The garden incorporates the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the The Great War Memorial which stood in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue. Continue reading