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
For several years it was a pot-mark on the Wellington Street landscape. The burned-out hulk of the former Ramada Inn proved such an eyesore, Craig Geerlinks and Adam MacLeod across the street at Geerlinks Home Hardware wrote a letter to council in December 2015 pointing out “The building has been abandoned for more than a few years. We are concerned this blight on the neighbourhood, and the city in general, will continue with no end in sight.”
They concluded their missive with the fact many customers leave the store “having purchased home improvement materials, those customers look across the street and cannot help but be disheartened that their efforts at improving their properties are offset by derelict and abandoned buildings such as this one . . . Out-of-town visitors attending activities at the Timken Arena and railway museum drive past the remnants of this now abandoned building and must wonder about our community spirit.”
You have to look very, very carefully to find this gem in last Monday’s council agenda.
We’ll help you out. It’s on Page 65. A warning from the city’s director of finance, David Aristone.
“The various reserve balance are adequate in the short term,” advised Aristone in his 2016 year-end update to council. “However, for the longer term, the city is financially exposed in the following areas.
Aristone lists four areas with the final being “future retirement payouts for the fire department.”
No amount is listed, but we confirmed with human resources director Graham Dart the amount at the end of 2016 was approximately $1.3 million.
A tidy sum, that. And what is the $1.3 million earmarked for?
An investment in “the next step in tools” and a consolidation of vehicles in the fleet will allow firefighters to “deliver a better service to the community,” advises St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent.
Delivery of next generation portable extrication tools last week and city council’s authorization Monday to purchase a new rescue vehicle gives his crews a capability not experienced in the past, adds Broadbent. Continue reading
The 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.”
Faced with the inevitable, St. Thomas Energy this week voluntarily halted the practice of winter disconnects for unpaid bills. The decision was made a day before the province pulled the plug on such action.
“The OEB (Ontario Energy Board) has strict rules about disconnects and time periods and we have to offer pay arrangements and we’ve always followed the OEB guidelines on that,” advised Rob Kent, acting CEO at St. Thomas Energy.
“We are voluntarily agreeing to the moratorium on disconnects.”
The obvious question is what leverage does St. Thomas Energy now have collecting overdue bills during cold weather months?
“You do lose leverage during the winter months when you can’t disconnect, but what no one has really looked at is what happens when that period ends and the customer has a substantial bill? How do you help them make arrangements and get caught up without getting disconnected in the spring and summer months? That is something we’re going to have to address.”
The Christmas of 1955 was shaping up to be a little on the lean side, recalled JoAnne De Wilde on Tuesday morning at the main fire hall in St. Thomas.
She had written down her recollection of what would, instead, become a memorable Christmas morning at the family home in Fingal and presented the note to St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent. Continue reading