Will transit continue to take a back seat in St. Thomas?


city_scope_logo-cmykFor those who rely on St. Thomas Transit, change may be a passenger in the coming year.
The transit contract with Voyageur – originally in effect Jan. 1, 2012 – expires at the end of the year and the city has the option to enter into a three-year extension.
The transit system was up for discussion at council’s Nov. 20 reference committee meeting at city hall, where the director of environmental services, Justin Lawrence, brought mayor and council up to speed on the five-route system.
In 1989 the hub and spoke system operated with traditional transit buses on a 45-minute cycle over a 14-hour day, Monday through Saturday.
Today, the same hub and spoke system operates 11.5 hours per day (except Sunday) on a 30-minute cycle utilizing buses not far removed from RV’s that struggle to remain in one piece over what appears to be a five-year life span. Continue reading

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So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

Mergers are all about creating efficiencies, so who will be left at the alter in health unit marriage?


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies.
Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector.
To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.”
To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading

Community engagement is critical for the new hand at police helm


city_scope_logo-cmykA raft of announcements emanating from the latest Police Services Board meeting held mid-October, including Deputy Chief Jeff Driedger announcing his retirement, to take effect some time next year.
That triggered the board to approve the contract of Chris Herridge as new police chief, effective Jan. 1 of 2018 and running through to February of 2024.
In conjunction with that announcement, Insp. Marc Roskamp will become acting Deputy Chief, with no increase in salary until he officially assumes the role on April 1, 2018.
Staff Sgt. Scott Barnes is promoted to acting inspector effective Jan. 1 of next year with no increase in salary until he officially is promoted on April 1, 2018.
And, Const. Chris Johnson will be promoted to acting sergeant at the beginning of the new year, again with no increase in salary until he officially is promoted on April 1, 2018.
We talked at length with the new police chief on Friday as he assumes the leadership role vacated by former chief Darryl Pinnell. Continue reading

Veterans Memorial Garden: Honouring those who never really came home


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you were unable to attend this morning’s (Oct. 28) dedication ceremony, you owe it to yourself to visit Veterans Memorial Garden on Moore Street.
Chairman Herb Warren and his memorial committee – Worth Chisholm, Douglas Nicholson, Coun. Mark Tinlin, Shelly Haycock, Ron Smith and Allan Weatherall – have created a beautiful downtown sanctuary in honour of the men and women who have served and gave their lives in past conflicts.
The garden incorporates the city’s war memorials in one downtown location. This would include the The Great War Memorial which stood in front of St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and the Second World War and Korean War memorial at Princess Avenue. Continue reading

OK, so you tear it down . . . then what?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith demolition of the Sutherland Press building slated to begin Oct. 30, according to city manager Wendell Graves, what happens once the structure is down and the site cleared?
The Sutherland Saga may yet have life to it.
Before looking at the possibilities, Graves ran through what is going on behind the scenes prior to levelling the four-storey building.
“They may start moving things in next week,” he explained. “Chris Peck, our chief building official is working with the contractor (Schouten Excavating of Watford).
“One of the things they are finalizing is the demolition contractor’s engineer is working with the chief building official just to finalize the methodology as to how it comes down.” Continue reading

After ten years, the hostages are to be set free


27jt01sutherlandjpgAfter a ten-year legal battle and two previous failed attempts, the city of St. Thomas today (Oct. 19) was given the green light to demolish a derelict downtown building.

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Sutherland Press building in 2008, prior to partial demolition of front face

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the city, denying owner David McGee’s most recent attempt at intervention to halt demolition of the four-storey Talbot Street edifice dating back to 1913.

“The courts found in favour of the city including the awarding of costs,” advised city manager Wendell Graves in an email.

Last week, the Court of Appeal allowed McGee to represent the parent company, Sutherland Lofts Inc. Previously McGee had relied on legal counsel Valerie M’Garry.

In 2008, Justice David Little commented ““The city has acted properly throughout. That cannot be said for the owner. The city is effectively being held hostage, as are its citizens, by an apparent shell corporation that has proven itself unreliable.”

Justice Peter Hockin, in June of this year, ruled  two work orders issued by the city in 2015 and 2016 are valid. Thereby confirming the structure was, indeed, unsafe.

Graves advised the city will be in discussion with the demolition contractor – Schouten  Excavating of Watford – to begin tearing down the crumbling building as soon as they can mobilize their equipment. Demolition is expected to take about 30 days.

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