Mayor Joe Preston is starting to feel ‘very comfortable’ about the prospect of a regional transit pilot project for St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykThe Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference wrapped up Tuesday in Toronto. The city sent a delegation to the event with Mayor Joe Preston, Coun. Gary Clarke and city manager Sandra Datars Bere in attendance.
The city’s delegation had confirmed meetings with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Attorney General.
We’ll deal with the former off the top as it was to address regional transit and accessible transit options, priorities for the city with the opening of the Amazon facility and the Maple Leaf Foods processing plant this year.
In a conversation with Preston following the conference, he indicated he felt “very comfortable” with the time spent with Associate Minister of Transportation Stan Cho.
Sitting in on the discussion was Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Rob Flack.
Preston zeroed in on the city’s pilot project which would see some form of transit between St. Thomas and the regional hub in the south end of London at White Oaks Mall.

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Estimated meter readings are water torture for some St. Thomas customers


city_scope_logo-cmykHow’s that water bill of yours? Are you going to have to dip into your savings or line of credit to pay the latest bill?
Some city residents have received much higher bills than normal and we contacted Jim Hogan, president and CEO of Entegrus. The city of St. Thomas contracts out meter reading to the utility who, we find out, subcontracts it to a third party.
According to Hogan, the bills have been estimated readings only for several months and those estimates do not necessarily jive with actual usage.
“It’s kind of a catch-up and a balancing between some of the estimates may be a little high and some were a little low and we’re working hard to get out there to do the actual reads, to verify the actual reads.”
The money collected is then paid to the city on a contractual basis.
According to the formal agreement between the city and Ascent/St. Thomas Energy signed in April 2014, St. Thomas Energy “will pay to the municipality the water and wastewater charges billed to the customers by the end of the month following the date of invoicing.”

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Leaving ‘bookmarks as to how we can move forward’ – St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter a much-enjoyed two-week Christmas hiatus, City Scope returns eager to document what transpires in the new year and what got us to this point over the past 365 days.
When looking back at 2022 – the fourth and final year for the previous municipal council – St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston lists housing as the top story. And Preston is quick to add growth in the city is not going to stop any time soon.
“We’re excited with what we’ve been able to accomplish on housing and have left bookmarks as to how we can move forward.
“Yes, it’s probably the Number 1 story across Ontario and we feel very comfortable with St. Thomas at all ranges, from the homeless side to the single-family homes side, have made incredible progress.”
Preston goes on to note the work undertaken in the past four years paves the way for what needs to be accomplished on the housing front by the recently elected council.
In reflecting on other accomplishments of city council in the past year, Preston turns to the acquisition of 800 acres of farmland east of Highbury Avenue.

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‘If we’re healthy on the inside, we will be healthy on the outside to deliver services to the community’ – incoming St. Thomas Police Chief Marc Roskamp


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city’s new police chief – as of January next year – wants to ensure the St. Thomas Police Service continues to deliver services to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.
That was abundantly evident during our conversation this week with current Deputy Chief, Marc Roskamp.
He’s a 25-year veteran of the St. Thomas Police Service with 16 years in uniform patrol before moving up to the Criminal Investigation Branch and then being appointed Deputy Chief in 2018.
The announcement of the retirement of Chief Chris Herridge and the promotion of Roskamp has an added personal touch.
Born and raised in Chatham, Roskamp’s father was also involved in policing.
“My father was a police officer in Chatham and, coincidently, he retired as the chief of police for the Chatham Police Service.
“So this is quite an honour, both personally and professionally, for myself and my family.
“My research tells me it is rare to have a father and then a son reach the office of chief.”

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St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge readies himself ‘for a new journey’


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter a nearly 35-year career with the St. Thomas Police Service – the last five at the helm – Chief Chris Herridge, this week announced he is retiring.
“It is time for a new journey,” noted Herridge.
Speaking with Herridge minutes before the official announcement on Thursday, he confided, “It is a personal and professional decision.”
He continued, “My family, Kim and the girls, have given up so much for my career in policing.
“The time has come, I have 34-plus years when it is all said and done and it’s time to give back to them. I’m a grandfather now.”
Like an athlete hanging up the cleats or skates, Herridge stressed, “It’s time.”
Herridge observed, “People always say you will realize it. I still love this job but as much as I love it, it’s time.”
To use another sports analogy, you are best to go out on a winning or high note.
“We have made tremendous strides in transforming into one of the most professional, advanced and transparent police services in Ontario,” noted Herridge.
“Leadership is about preparing, empowering and inspiring others to lead. Continue reading

‘I’m your guy if you want someone who is really invested in solving these issues – St. Thomas city council candidate Timothy Hedden


Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

city_scope_logo-cmykAfter pitching in with the Heather Jackson campaign team in the June provincial vote, Timothy Hedden is turning his attention to this fall’s municipal vote.
This is his second run for a seat on city council. He was in a crowded field of 19 candidates, finishing 15th with 1,711 votes in the 2018 municipal election.
Hedden tells us he learned plenty from that unsuccessful run and now has a clearer understanding of the role of a city councillor.
“It’s an interesting role that I think I understand a lot better now having been through the process once and watching council meet and paying attention to the things they actually do.”
His understanding of a councillor’s responsibilities and mandates has matured over the past four years, and his campaigning on the plight of the homeless likewise has taken on a sharper focus.
“You might be able to stamp out not homelessness entirely because it is a revolving thing, but I think you can get to the point where there are very, very few individuals that we are having to help out.

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‘We have got to find a way for The Inn to be a better neighbour to its neighbours’ – St. Thomas Councillor Steve Peters


Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

city_scope_logo-cmykDiscussion on the status and future of the city’s emergency shelter, The Inn, consumed more than an hour of Monday’s (July 11) council meeting.
It resolved little but revealed much.
Margaret Barrie, chair of the board of directors and Pastor Cherisse Swarath, Interim Executive Director, Inn Out of the Cold, in a deputation to council updated members on progress at the shelter in its new location and then fielded a bevy of questions from councillors.
Many of those questions were prompted by a letter to Mayor Joe Preston from Brad Beausoleil, who owns several properties in St. Thomas, including 6 Princess Avenue which is adjacent to The Inn.
We delved into that correspondence two weeks ago and there is a link to that post below.
And, Beausoleil forwarded this corner a follow-up email with his impressions of the delegation which we will deal with in the following item.

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STEGH is facing capacity challenges and hospitals across the province “are having to adjust their services based on the staff that are not available”


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s not a situation unique to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) as facilities across the province are grappling with staffing challenges, inpatient overcapacity and stressed emergency departments.
All of which is creating capacity challenges which ultimately impact those requiring emergency care.
In an interview with Karen Davies, STEGH president and CEO, on Thursday (June 30), she confided that the hospital is dealing with a more than 30 percent increase in ER visits.
“In March of this year, we were seeing about 900 patients a week and now we’re seeing over 1,200 patients.
“And so the impact in our emergency department and also our inpatient side where we added 22 new beds in the early days of the pandemic.
“All 22 of those beds are full.”

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Charges against St. Thomas music teacher a warning we need to protect children ‘without hesitation or reservation about others’ opinions’


city_scope_logo-cmykEugene Francois made a brief video court appearance yesterday (June 24) at the Elgin County Courthouse.
He is facing 16 charges in relation to 10 victims who attended his Talbot Street residence – which is also his music studio – where he filmed individuals without their knowledge or consent.
The new charges include voyeurism, making child pornography and possession of child pornography.
St. Thomas Police believe there are more victims and they are asking females who attended his residence between 2009 and May of last year to contact their Criminal Investigation Branch if they have not done so already.
These new charges are in addition to human trafficking, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, traffic in persons under the age of 18, benefitting from trafficking and possession of child pornography charges laid one year ago.
He was arrested by St. Thomas Police on May 27 of 2021 after a search warrant was issued for his apartment.

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