Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case.
Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well.
Start probing.
For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275. Continue reading

In-camera report might reveal true cost of renovating Colin McGregor Justice Building


city_scope_logo-cmykA confusing few moments at Monday’s council meeting so this corner thought it wise to confer with Ald. Jeff Kohler on what he is attempting to uncover.
To briefly summarize, Kohler was seeking to have a report brought out into open session, but the majority of council had difficulty establishing just what document he was referring to and the matter was deferred to the August meeting.
By way of explanation, Kohler noted the report – dealt with during a 2015 in-camera meeting of council – presented different location options for Elgin-St. Thomas Ontario Works, whose lease in the Mickleborough Building on Talbot Street expires this year.
Several sites for a new home for Ontario Works were catalogued, including the Colin McGregor Justice Building, vacated this month by the St. Thomas Police Service.

What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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City and London developer Shmuel Farhi reach deal on west-end properties


After announcing a conditional offer last April, the city has reached a deal with London developer Shmuel Farhi for the purchase of two Talbot Street properties.
City manager Wendell Graves announced the deal Wednesday morning that includes the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending south to Centre Street.
The property includes four homes on Queen Street.

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Bankruptcy an undesirable fare at Cox Cabs


city_scope_logo-cmykAn independent player in the movement of people and parcels around St. Thomas and environs since 1944, taxis branded as Cox Cabs picked up their last fare early this year.
A victim of a market re-brand or idled by bankruptcy?
The former, insists owner Jamie Donnelly, who purchased Cox Cabs from the late Terry Banghart in 2011. Banghart took part ownership of the company in 1993 and sole ownership in 2003. He began as a driver with the firm in 1973.
“We started re-branding about three months ago and we have completed it now,” Donnelly told City Scope recently.

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Pencil-sharpening time as council tackles 2017 budget


city_scope_logo-cmykThe first of three 2017 budget meetings was held Monday at city hall with the second in the series on tap this coming Monday at 4 p.m. where the focus will shift to proposed capital projects and grants.

The 2017 draft budget requires a municipal tax levy increase of 3.44 per cent. However when you factor in an additional $41 million in residential assessment, that reduces the proposed levy to a 2.32 per cent increase.

Proposed capital projects this year total $36.3 million in expenditures. Continue reading

Will the forgotten Talbot Street apartments soon have company?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s been almost a year since we exposed the city’s forgotten Talbot Street apartments across from city hall and owner Antoine Trad, who had been approved by St.Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre.

Two of the apartments were to be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder are for Canadian Mental Health Association clients.

In the intervening 11 months, Trad has shuttered his furniture business and the status of the apartment project – along with the pair of decrepit upper units at 554 Talbot Street – is hazy.

With a demonstrated need for affordable housing in the city, we queried acting director of St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works Elizabeth Sebestyen this week on whether this project will proceed. Continue reading