Councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Joe Preston and city manager Wendell Graves this past Monday. Push forward with the construction of an 88-space downtown childcare centre in an expedient fashion. Preston responded as he has in the past, by deflecting. In his report to council, Graves recommended retendering the project this fall with construction to be completed by the end of next year. The reason for the delay in going out to tender, advised Graves, is an increase in costs in the neighbourhood of $300,000 when the project was tendered last month. Putting the cost estimate in the $4.3 million range whereas just over $4 million has been budgeted for the badly needed childcare facility to be located on St. Catharine Street. “Childcare spaces in our community are desperately needed,” reminded Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands, “and I believe once we start coming out of COVID a little more rapidly, the people who are going to be requiring the service of daycare is going to be growing exponentially.”
As hoped for, the city this week released the request for proposal (RFP) for the delivery of the EarlyON program in St. Thomas and Elgin county. While it provides some insight and clarification on the new direction, there are questions and concerns on the part of the city, based on the two-page addendum that accompanies the RFP document. The preamble notes, “The City of St. Thomas is issuing this Request for Proposal (RFP) to seek successful proponents who will operate EarlyON Child and Family Centres in St. Thomas and Elgin County. “For the purposes of the delivery of EarlyON Child and Family Centre programs and services, three distinct Service Delivery Zones have been created: West, Central and East.”
They are not included in the daily tally issued by health units across the province – including Southwestern Public Health in this area – and yet these individuals have been victimized and their lives put on hold by the coronavirus. And last week’s release of the framework to be adhered to by hospitals is a welcome ray of hope for those whose elective surgeries and procedures also fell victim to COVID-19. Although it may still be several weeks before ramping up the numbers, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron says the preparatory work is underway. Speaking with him yesterday (Friday), Biron advised the immediate task is to work with other hospitals in the region to create a joint plan so that all hospitals are working “in a lockstep approach.” He adds, “There is a lot of complexity involved in that because there is a pandemic we have to account for.
While talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year. And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time. Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario. On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal. The outstanding issue remains 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. Continue reading →
Well a pair of Steves kicked off the 2018 municipal electoral race, on opening day no less. That would be Steve Wookey, in his bid for the mayor’s seat after one term on council and Steve Peters, in a city hall comeback effort. Both filed their nomination papers early Tuesday. You have to love Wookey’s assertion he has the endorsement of all members of the present council. Of course, that would be with the exception of sitting mayor Heather Jackson, who has basically been handed a vote of no confidence by councillors. Wookey has been pushing for a complete overhaul of the city’s transit system, likely a popular move with those who shun the bus but a bitter pill for those who rely on a traditional service, including low-income users and students. Continue reading →
Unwilling to plunge head first into online voting, city council did reach a consensus Monday to collectively dip a toe into the water for the 2018 municipal election.
While one councillor called casting a ballot online “inevitable,” another worried about ensuring each eligible elector was limited to a single vote. But after healthy debate, council confirmed paper ballots as the primary method of voting in the next trip to the polls – to be counted through the use of electronic vote tabulators – with internet and telephone voting to be introduced as alternatives for advance polls only.
A seemingly innocent comment at the close of Monday’s reference committee meeting – held prior to the regularly scheduled council session – unwittingly could have the same impact as flinging a full can of gas onto a smoldering fire.
In the new business portion of the meeting, Coun. Mark Burgess waded into the mire that is council grants to community groups, a process that sees hundreds of thousands of dollars doled out on an annual basis.
The response to the good councillor’s remark was swift.
Spurred by a don’t-talk-to-me-about-my-workload retort from Mayor Heather Jackson, council Monday ditched any effort to formally establish a deputy mayor position at city hall.
A pair of motions addressing different methods of selecting a deputy mayor – prompted by Coun. Mark Tinlin’s desire to “move forward and formalize the position” – were defeated, although the initial version fell on a tie vote.
As 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.