Veterans Memorial Garden another St. Thomas success story


city_scope_logo-cmykThe ceremonial ground-breaking was held last month and now it is down to serious business at Veterans Memorial Garden, to be located on Moore Street, across from BX Tower.
The garden will incorporate the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the First World War soldier in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue.
Standing on the site of the garden recently, Tony Bendel, representing Lord Elgin Branch 41, Royal Canadian Legion, described the layout.
The soldier will be moved to the north end of the garden while the Second World War and Korean War memorial will be in the centre and become “the focal point. And currently right now in Toronto there is a bronze statue being cast of an Afghan soldier and that will be at the far end (south end of the garden near Centre Street). They will be building a rock wall and that soldier will be sitting on that.” Continue reading

After nine years, it’s time to pony up and listen


After nine years of legal wrangling, a bevy of engineering reports, much dizzying debate over semantics and hair-splitting, we finally have a definitive answer from on high.
The Sutherland Press building is unsafe. That’s the determination of Justice Peter Hockin handed down this week along with confirmation building orders issued in 2015 and 2016 have been confirmed as valid.
All right, but now what?
City manager Wendell Graves advised the next step for the city is consultation with legal counsel John Sanders, but “In the absence of any action by the owner, the city will want to make the area safe again as soon as possible.” Continue reading

A hot housing market? Look no further than council’s agenda.


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a compelling presentation last month to Thames Valley District School Board trustees, St. Thomas developer Doug Tarry stressed “it would be really dumb to close New Sarum (public school) because you are going to wipe out empty seats at Mitchell Hepburn.”
With the number of new homes coming online, Tarry insisted both schools will be needed. He noted 92 lots in his newest St. Thomas subdivision sold out within four days of release.
Well you have to look no further than Monday’s council agenda to ascertain Tarry was not stretching the truth.
The St. Thomas housing market is on fire and school board trustees should have paid heed to his warning.
Here’s a rundown on applications before council June 19.
Springwater Developments is proposing five buildings, each containing four townhouse units and two lots for semi-detached dwellings to be located on Arbor Trail in the Orchard Park South Development Area.
Shawside Development Ltd., is proposing to develop 59 lots for single detached dwellings and 39 multiple-attached or detached dwelling units with part of another block of land set aside for future development. This is to be located on Old Course Road.
Owner Russell Higgins plans to develop 55 lots for single-detached dwellings on the former Gloin Farm property adjacent to the Shawside Development Area.
And Tarry is seeking permission to proceed with Phase 1 of his Millers Pond Subdivision on the former Parish Farm, west of Fairview Road. This would entail 52 lots for single-detached dwellings. This is in addition to a total of 255 dwelling units proposed for the Harvest Run Block Plan on the former Axford Farm, east of Centennial Road.
Of course the London-based school board dismissed all presentations from a bevy of concerned parents, students, municipal and business leaders and will march ahead with its plan 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.
Again we refer to the presentation that evening from John Hueston, president of the Aylmer Express newspaper, who opened with the Mark Twain quote, “In the first place, God made idiots. This was just for practice. Then he made school boards.” Continue reading

Lots of red ink, but rest assured nothing will be written off


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With municipal councils in St. Thomas and Chatham-Kent having approved the merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, all that is required is the go-ahead from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), likely to happen late this year with a target merger date of Jan. 1, 2018.
Oh, and there is that prickly matter of a not insignificant amount of long-term debt run up by Ascent Group, St. Thomas Energy’s parent – city treasurer David Aristone refers to it as bank debt – and in excess of $5 million owed the municipality for the collection of water bills dating back to at least 2014.
It’s not a subject open to much in the way of discussion by either Aristone or St. Thomas Energy acting CEO Rob Kent. 

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‘It just sits there.’ Is the Sutherland Press building a monument to something or an over-sized bird house?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen we last looked in on the Sutherland Saga, one question remained unanswered. Is the four-storey structure looming over the downtown core unsafe?
After a day-long hearing Friday at the Elgin County Courthouse – in which lawyer Valerie M’Garry, representing owner David McGee, and John Sanders, representing the city’s chief building official Chris Peck, parried over the definition of unsafe and is there a definition of a safe structure – little headway was made in what has become a dizzying debate over semantics.
And, as was the case on the opening day of the hearing a week ago, it was Justice Peter Hockin who dominated proceedings. Pondering aloud at one point, “What if this place is not insurable from a liability point of view?”
To backtrack for a moment, the purpose of the two-day hearing is to get down to business and deal with the decision of a three-member court of appeal panel handed down last month in which it ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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Council approves tender for construction of St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex


Orin Contractors Corp. of Concord, Ontario was the winning bidder at $9.1 million for construction of the St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex to be located on Burwell Road in the city’s north end.
Monday night, city council unanimously approved accepting the base tender of $9,098,178.97, excluding HST. An amount of $11,440,000 had been approved in the 2017 capital budget.
ST. THOMAS OUTDOOR RECREATION COMPLEXLess than $200,000 separated the top two bids, with the third tender from Aldershot Landscape Contractors coming in at $13.6 million. 
The 65-acre complex will include soccer pitches, a full-size lighted artificial turf football field, a community park with play zone and splash pad, basketball courts, multi-use trail, washrooms, concession stand and change rooms.
City manager Wendell Graves told council opportunities exist to include the soccer and football clubs in fundraising opportunities. This would help pay for items not included in the base tender price, including a shade shelter, a score clock for the artificial surface field, optional bleachers and an equipment storage building.
The St. Thomas Soccer Club has already committed to a donation of nets with an estimated value of $140,000.
A fundraising report will be presented to council at a later date. 
Council last year approved a sum of $450,000 to complete the design and tender specifications for the project.
In March of this year Dave Aristone, director of finance, advised a 20-year loan in the amount of $11 million from Infrastructure Ontario would be the preferred financing option.
Graves had previously advised work on the complex could begin next month.
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New life for an old St. Thomas foot path


The city’s newest trail project may very well involve one of the older, well-established foot paths in St. Thomas.

At Monday’s reference committee meeting, city council was apprised of the Owaissa Trail project connecting Hiawatha Street to Athletic Park and then continuing on to St. George Street.
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Existing path looking eastward from Athletic Park clubhouse

The short-cut to Athletic Park has been in use for decades, most notably by Arthur Voaden Secondary School teams to quickly get from the school to games at the sports fields.
“It’s a very, very well used trail,” advised Ross Tucker, director of parks, recreation and property management.
The move to formally create a trail was prompted by queries about ownership of land in the area and liability issues.
The plan is to create a three-metre wide asphalt path down from Hiawatha Street to the clubhouse area at Athletic Park and then through the parking area up to St. George Street. The cost is estimated at $180,000, which does not include any possible land purchases.
The route includes a storm sewer easement which the city does not own.
When asked about steepness of the trail and ease of use for those with accessibility issues, director of environmental services Justin Lawrence indicated the grade would be in the six to eight per cent range.
Coun. Steve Wookey questioned whether the trail would be lighted, to which Tucker responded, “We’re not entertaining any lighting, at least yet.”
A staff report will be presented to council later this fall, with cost of the trail to be included in the 2018 capital budget.
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