Neighbourhood blight to be demolished in favour of seniors’ residence


city_scope_logo-cmykFor 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.”

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Retirement payouts to firefighters enough to make you sick


city_scope_logo-cmykYou 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?

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New purchases will enable St. Thomas firefighters to deliver ‘a better service,’ says chief


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

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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There is a great disconnect on winter disconnects


city_scope_logo-cmykFaced 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.”

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Paying back a gift of kindness


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

Health care system is not broken, but there is waste – Paul Collins


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a lengthy interview on Paul Collins‘ penultimate day as president and CEO at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, he dwelt on the Great

Expansion, the facility’s designation as a regional stroke centre and a greater role for STEGH as a regional player.

We’ll pick up this week with the suggestion the health care model in this province is broken.

“I don’t think the system is broken,” asserted Collins. “But I think there are some elements of the system we need to be paying attention to. How does the aging population affect this hospital. We talk about alternate levels of care. These are folks who come to the hospital because they need care, but then when it’s time to be discharged, the question where is the safest place for them to be discharged to – long-term care, in their own home or a nursing home? Continue reading