No islands in these streams, just a series of HR obstacles


city_scope_logo-cmykCongratulations are in order to Elizabeth Sebestyen, confirmed this week as the Director of Social Services for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
She has been acting director since 2013 and has worked for the department since 2001.
And why did it take so long to announce the permanent appointment?
Well you won’t get any answers at city hall, because it involved a protracted labour relations tribunal dealing with a wrongful dismissal claim by former director Barbara Arbuckle, hired in 2011.
A conversation a year ago with city manager Wendell Graves revealed the following.
“I can’t say a lot but she’s (Sebestyen) still the acting director and Barbara is still on leave.” Continue reading

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Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?


city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading

Sutherland Saga sees St. Thomas held for ransom


city_scope_logo-cmykJust when we thought the Sutherland Saga could not plunge deeper into the abyss of absurdity, what happens but it does just that.

In a decision rendered Tuesday (Sept. 27), Justice Gorman declined to rule on owner David McGee’s request for an injunction to halt demolition of the four-storey structure deemed unsafe by city engineers.

Instead, Justice Gorman did accept McGee’s submission at the May hearing in the Elgin County Courthouse that Sutherland Loft Inc. did not receive notice of a building order and its president was unaware, specifically, the building might be demolished if not remediated by the owner. Continue reading

There’s always room for one more manager at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykAs far as media releases go, Wednesday’s city hall advisory was brimming with corporate bravado.
“With its sights set on the strengthening of its leadership and organizational management, streamlining corporate financial management and the continued renewal of the Environmental Services Department,” the release breathlessly announced, “City Council has put in motion a number of strategic changes.”
What this declaration shamefully failed to include was three people would lose their jobs in the organizational restructuring.
Why the oversight?
Does their escort out the doors of city hall cast doubt on the true motives at play?
This restructuring is predicated, in part, by the findings of a curious report presented to council last fall.
The Dobbie Report — ostensibly an organizational review of the environmental services department — noted senior managers at city hall felt the lack of staff was an issue along with the need for more advanced equipment and technology such as cell phones and laptop computers. Continue reading

What’s it like living next door to a disaster?


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She lives in a well-maintained, tree-shaded 1890’s-era house on Kains St. Pride of ownership includes custom stain glass windows inside, one of which once graced Alma College.

Sounds like an ideal abode to retreat to.

Not quite, cautions owner Pauline Wimbush.

“I live next door to a disaster.”

She is referring to the abandoned and derelict cottage-style house at 46 Kains St.

A quaint residence that, in its prime, no doubt could have been described as picture postcard perfect.

Today it is a vermin-infested tragedy in waiting. Continue reading