The long and winding road toward a firm – yet fair – community grant policy in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykPerhaps the city’s alleged new community grant process isn’t quite yet carved in stone.
We wrote about the grant policy last week in advance of Monday’s (Sept. 13) council meeting where Dan Sheridan, the city’s director of finance, recommended members deny small funding requests from the STEAM Education Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Thomas Elgin because the money, according to Sheridan’s interpretation, is to be used for operating expenses.
Council heeded Sheridan’s advice but there was a notable sense of discomfort with the decision from several quarters.
Which, once again, opened up a debate over what is and what should the community grant policy look like.
Prompting this opening salvo from Coun. Steve Wookey.
“For the benefit of myself and everyone watching, I just want to review this very quickly.
“These grants are not meant for day-to-day operations. That’s where I have a little bit of a different assessment of it currently than the folks in treasury do.
“In my mind, the over-arching concept here is, does this help get something off the ground.”
A critical consideration put forth by Coun. Wookey as it could be applied to both funding applications before council on Monday.

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Is a new, permanent emergency shelter pivotal to addressing the homelessness dilemma in St. Thomas and Elgin?


city_scope_logo-cmykEarlier this week, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek announced $928,000 in funding to support the purchase of a new building for a permanent emergency shelter.
A facility Yurek noted that will be, “a stable facility from which dedicated local service providers can continue to carry out their important, lifesaving work.”
Such a shelter was one of the areas touched upon last month during a meeting between Mayor Joe Preston and downtown merchants who vented their frustration with the lack of attention paid to the plight of the homeless in the core area.
What Preston referred to as “solving the problems of the people causing the problems.”

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Body-worn cameras ‘are often effective when dealing with victims’ – Kentville Police Service


city_scope_logo-cmykTo follow up on last week’s item on the pilot project to be undertaken by the St. Thomas Police Service to evaluate body cameras, Chief Chris Herridge indicated the small police force in Kentville, Nova Scotia may prove to be a valuable resource during the evaluation.
We contacted Kentville police and exchanged emails with Deputy Chief Marty Smith who was most helpful with his responses to our questions.
As to how long the service has employed body cameras he noted, “The Kentville Police Service started with a pilot project in 2015 under retired Chief Mark Mander.
“In the beginning, we only had a few members outfitted with Body-Worn Cameras to see if they would be beneficial for our members and the public. In 2018 KPS developed a policy and every patrol member wears a BWC when working.”

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A tale of two schools: ‘The public doesn’t support us closing full schools to create a business case to open another one.’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a three-year battle to save a couple of rural schools in Elgin, but in the end, it may have been a last-minute letter of clarification that sealed the deal.
Tuesday evening (Nov. 26) Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) trustees voted overwhelmingly in favour of rescinding a motion to shutter New Sarum and Springfield public schools next year.
The motion had initially been introduced in October by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock, with the support of fellow area trustee Bruce Smith.
After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school.
Several trustees had opposed Ruddock’s motion in the belief such a move could jeopardize the business case for the construction of a new school in Belmont.

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Parents and elected officials get their say on pending Elgin county school closings


city_scope_logo-cmykThe mayors from a pair of Elgin county municipalities along with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek made their best pitch Tuesday (Nov. 19) at a special meeting of Thames Valley District School Board trustees.
But it was a member of the Wilson family of Malahide who hit the ball out of the park in a bid to rescind a TVDSB motion to close New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
The meeting was held to allow public input on a motion introduced last month by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock to reverse a decision to close the pair of schools next year.
After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools two years ago, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school.
Fifteen delegations were presented during the two-hour meeting with Yurek suggesting the construction of a smaller school than originally proposed in Belmont could allow the two threatened schools to remain open.

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A clear case of neglect, however ‘reasonable doubt’ lingers in the death of Lady


city_scope_logo-cmykJustice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option.
Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected.
Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7.
Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.

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‘We heard more about Doug Ford than we heard of any other leader, including Andrew Scheer.’ – MP Karen Vecchio


city_scope_logo-cmykProving her inaugural run at federal politics was no one-hit-wonder, Karen Vecchio cruised to an easy victory in Monday’s federal vote.
She will represent the constituents of Elgin-Middlesex-London for a second term after garnering just shy of 31,000 votes, up from 28,000 in 2015.
Liberal hopeful Pam Armstrong was a distant second with just over 14,000 votes.
That is far less than the 17,642 gained by Lori Baldwin-Sands in 2015.
We caught up with a battle-weary Vecchio on Thursday for a lengthy conversation on her local success which was tempered by the failure of leader Andrew Scheer to power past the Justin Trudeau Liberals.
To open the discussion, we asked Vecchio about the strain she underwent running a 40-day campaign marathon.

“You’re going every single day from dusk till dawn. And honestly, the thing that keeps you going is all the volunteers that surrounded you. But physically, you are getting drained, mentally, you’re ready to go. You’re going, going going, but physically, you’re getting tired. But it’s really hard when one time I had a 93-year-old lady who coordinated 16 volunteers. You’re not going to say ‘no.’
“So, I just kind of went to the pace that my volunteers were at. That kept me going every day. Hard, hard, hard, and it was wonderful. I’m surrounded by really hard-working people that motivate me every day.”

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Province loosens the purse strings to assist St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital


city_scope_logo-cmykRecognizing the need to fix “long-standing issues with how hospitals are funded,” the province this past week announced an additional $68 million in funding to support small- and medium-sized hospitals in Ontario.
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek unveiled the funding boost Thursday (Oct. 17) at the CASO station, indicating St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) will received $1.47 million under the investment geared to ending hallway healthcare.
“Noting that it is a medium-sized hospital, the hospital has faced its fair share of problems throughout the years,” acknowledged Yurek, “in spite of its success in implementing the Lean program throughout the facility.”
The Lean management program – adopted by the hospital several years ago under then CEO Paul Collins – maximizes patient care while minimizing waste at the facility. In other words, creating more value for patients with fewer resources.

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Proposed Wellington Block revitalization: Over-the-top excitement or cause for concern?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile one St. Thomas councillor expressed concern over further investment in the city-owned Wellington Block, an architect working on the social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street is “over-the-top excited” about the possibilities inside the now-vacant structure.
That’s according to city manager Wendell Graves, who updated council on the status of the former Wellington Public School at the April 15 reference committee meeting.
And, one of those possibilities is converting each classroom into a residential unit, with the wainscotting and chalkboards in place so that some of them could be live/work spaces.
Graves envisions a total of 19 units of various sizes on the three floors, with each having its own heating/air conditioning system.
Not all units would be of the geared-to-income variety, with a number of them to be market driven. Continue reading