After enduring a painful three months of coronavirus cancellations, curtailments and closures, this has been an extraordinary week for positive, time-to-move-forward announcements. Let’s begin with Monday’s (June 8) meeting where council revisited its May 19 split decision to leave the tables empty this summer at the Horton Market. Five members of council – Mayor Joe Preston and councillors Jeff Kohler, Gary Clarke, Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – reconsidered their previous non-support which resulted in a unanimous vote to proceed with opening the popular market on June 20. The market board of directors submitted a revised plan of operation with enhanced COVID-19 restrictions which assured all members of council the health and safety of both vendors and customers would be a top priority.
Hopping on a bus bound for London may soon be a reality for St. Thomas and Elgin county residents.
The city is about to pitch a pilot project to the province seeking funding support for regional transit connectivity for residents of St. Thomas, Central Elgin, Southwold, Malahide and Aylmer.
The undertaking was a recommendation of the Transit Strategic Plan presented to city council a month ago, although the pilot project would go beyond the one-year test suggested in that report.
As outlined Monday (Dec. 16) by Mayor Joe Preston at the reference committee meeting, the three-year undertaking would see a Monday through Sunday service operating from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The bus would leave St. Thomas on the hour for each trip, although Preston stressed these times and hours of operation could be adjusted.
To accommodate a projected population in excess of 50,000 by the year 2041, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan. Last June, the city completed a population and housing study which determined the municipality will require an additional 76 gross hectares of residential land to accommodate this growth. As such, the city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth. The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development. In addition, the city will identify recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades.Continue reading →
In reassuring contrast to President Donald Trump’s tempestuous Tweets undermining Canada-U.S. relations, an emotional ceremony Sunday (Sept. 9) in a soy field east of Lawrence Station serves as confirmation of the lasting bond between the two countries. The occasion was the unveiling of the commemorative plaque at the crash site of the Flagship Erie, American Airlines Flight 1 en route to Detroit from Buffalo that slammed into the ground at 10:10 p.m. Oct. 30, 1941, killing all 20 aboard the DC-3. It’s final resting spot was the farm of Thompson and Viola Howe. Their deaths made it Canada’s worst airline crash at the time and it remains Elgin county’s worst disaster. An almost forgotten chapter in the history of Southwold Township. Continue reading →
The crack of a wooden bat meeting a leather-covered baseball at the old ball diamond in Fingal is but a distant memory, however the Union Road site of games hosted by numerous editions of local teams is soon to be transformed into a heritage park. A fixture into the 1960s, it was replaced the next decade when the Optimist Club provided Fingal with a more modern facility. Southwold still maintains the green space north of the main intersection – site of the Fingal Foundry and Machine Shop – and a few years ago, a number of Fingal residents started having yard sales to raise money for playground equipment. Continue reading →
The evening prior to Halloween, 1941, saw light rain and fog blanket Elgin county and through that murk, American Airlines Flight 1 lost its struggle to remain airborne, hurtling into a field southwest of St. Thomas. About two hundred yards distant, in a second-floor bedroom of Thompson and Viola Howe’s farmhouse, five-year-old Ken slept peacefully, oblivious to the flaming wreckage visible from his window. Thompson Howe was in the barn around 10:30 p.m. when the DC-3, christened Flagship Erie and en route to Detroit from Buffalo, hit the ground with such an impact it shook the ground as he completed the chores for the day. Viola Howe, who witnessed the crash, had expressed concern when she saw the plane circling, apparently in distress. Her fear was the craft would hit the farmhouse. In fact, there is speculation that perhaps the pilot, at the last minute, did all he could to avoid further loss of life. Continue reading →
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 →
It was a sign of what lies ahead for city staff in St. Thomas. An overview of the proposed 2017 advertising sign bylaw ran into stiff opposition at this week’s reference committee meeting. Amendments to the existing bylaw to deal with portable signs in the downtown core faced vocal opposition from more than two dozen small businesses and area sign companies. The bylaw would prohibit portable advertising signs in the downtown business area and limit them to one per commercial lot outside the core and three per industrial lot. A-board signs would still be permitted but would have to come in off the sidewalk at the end of the day. It’s a restriction similar to what’s in place in London and Sarnia.
Township of Southwold Mayor and Elgin County Warden Grant Jones
This past year, Southwold has been very busy. In a smaller community it’s important that we help business where we can and all the events and organizations within the community.
Rosy Rhubarb, our cornerstone festival, showcases Southwold and volunteer organizations within the township. This year Rosy is celebrating its 25th year. Because these organizations were the main drive behind fundraising for our new library, they’ll be hosting the grand opening on June 9.
The Shedden Tractor Pull continues to be one of the best pulls in Ontario with record crowds year after year. Organizers donate many dollars back into the community each year and they are one amazing small bunch of people. Around 5,000 people come each year.
Our Canada Day celebrations at Fingal Park are always well attended and we are planning a bigger and better celebration for Canada’s 150th birthday this year.
Last year we hosted our first Tour of Southwold by Tractor, which covered about 40 km. It was a great tour followed by a barbecue. These tractors are all at least 25 years old, with a few well over 50 years old.
The Shedden Fair is another one of our cornerstones, for well over 100 years now. They exemplify traditions that are a real heritage.