MPP Jeff Yurek: More mental health and addiction supports needed to stop deaths at EMDC


city_scope_logo-cmykSt. Thomas will be the venue for the latest inquest into an inmate death at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC).
The coroner’s inquest into the death of 47-year-old Michael Fall on July 30, 2017, will begin Sept. 23 at the Elgin County Courthouse.
Fall was one of five inmates to die that year at the London institution which has experienced 15 deaths in the past decade.
An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act and it will examine the circumstances surrounding his death. The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing future deaths.
It’s certainly not the first inquest into an inmate death and, most recently, on June 22 another male prisoner was found unresponsive in his cell and later died in hospital.
Two days later, Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek advised in a statement, “I will continue to work with the solicitor general to ensure the safety of correctional officers, staff and inmates.”

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Casting the net in hopes of snaring a partner


city_scope_logo-cmykNo formal nuptial news as of yet, however a St. Thomas Energy merger partner could be unveiled as early as this coming week. City council, the sole shareholder of parent company Ascent Group, met in closed session Tuesday to pour over a summary report from Grant Thornton, the financial consultants hired by the city to explore potential utility partnerships for St. Thomas Energy.

“We’re working through some things and we hope that will lead to an announcement, hopefully next week,” advised city manager Wendell Graves in an interview Thursday.

Speculation has run high a potential suitor might be London Hydro and we asked Graves how many offers are under consideration.

“I can’t be too specific,” said Graves, “but I will say . . . we cast the net across the entire province with all of the municipally owned electrical distribution companies . . . it did garner some interest so we’re happy about that.” Continue reading

Is jockeying for position underway for the 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe plug has been pulled – at least temporarily – on Mayor Heather Jackson’s vision of a fibre optics network for St. Thomas.

Her plan for a fibre optics information session was voted down in a closed-door meeting on June 20 and Jackson was so infuriated she fired off an email to various players in the business community pointing the finger at councillors Jeff Kohler and Gary Clarke, who put forth the motion that “The Information Session regarding fibre planned for July 19, 2016 be postponed until a date agreeable to Council.”

Council voted 6-2 in favour of the motion.

The cost of such a network would be tens of millions of dollars according to an individual in the know and this may have played a role in council putting the brakes on the mayor’s plans. Continue reading

Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub


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A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading

Joan Rymal responds to March 28-15 City Scope


It is unfortunate that Earl got the impression that the message was “nasty” but that was not my intent. I had sent my email to request further information, as I am concerned about the downtown area and want to gather as much information as possible to make sure I have all the facts before making any decisions.

Joan Rymal.

Joan Rymal.


I am concerned about the amount of time that the DDB is focusing on waste management with the many issues that are facing our downtown core.

I had requested a meeting last week with the Mayor regarding this issue and there is a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 31 with the Waste Management committee.

I am also concerned about costs as the City does provide a second garbage pick up to the Talbot area between Stanley and Balaclava. This is in an effort to assist with the waste management of this area and is at no additional cost to the DDB. I wanted more information from the DDB, as I am wondering if further education needs to be done for the storeowners and tenants in this area.

I want to ensure our downtown streetscape is welcoming for all.

Thanks,
Joan

You’re elected to make a decision and move forward


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She survived a bitterly fought election campaign last fall, threats to her well-being this month over the city’s snow-removal efforts and on Wednesday, Mayor Heather Jackson demonstrated in feisty fashion why she has earned the right to wear the chain of office.

Jackson appeared with Southwold Mayor Grant Jones and Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr at the fifth annual State of the Municipalities luncheon, hosted by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce at St. Anne’s Centre

While her focus was firmly directed at economic development, the city’s near $300 million infrastructure deficit and cooperation with neighbouring municipalities, it was this observation from Jackson that left no doubt she will no longer tolerate foot dragging on two projects that have unnecessarily languished in the political mire — a byproduct of previous councils.
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Adopt a code now or face wrath of voters


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By the time the closing prayer is uttered Monday, council may well have adopted a code of conduct, not only for themselves, but for appointed boards and committees.
A sad commentary on how questionable the behaviour of some elected representatives has become over the past few terms of council.
“It’s a shame in this day and age this is a necessity,” bemoaned Mayor Heather Jackson on Friday.
However, the continual leaking of information discussed in closed session and the verbal sparring between aldermen Cliff Barwick and Lori Baldwin-Sands are but two factors that lift the proposed code of conduct into the urgently required category.
The mayor’s frustration was evident last December.
“Even this week there’s been another piece of information given to somebody . . . and they’re not even leaking the right information.”
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Was the pencil really sharpened enough?


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In spite of its length — a mind and rear-end numbing four-and-a-half hours — the demeanor observed throughout Monday’s budget deliberations was surprisingly amicable and focused.
Faced with a property tax hike hovering around six per cent, by dipping into reserves and cutting back on contributions to those same funds, council was able to approve a 3.8% municipal tax levy.
All the while approving more than $300,000 in community grants to more than a dozen groups and organizations.
The real financial picture of the city lies not in dozens of pages of line items, but instead in the notes, advisories and warnings from treasurer Bill Day.
Tidbits like the fact the city has projected a 2013 operating surplus of $176,000. A figure much less than in previous years and chump change when dealing with a $110 million corporation.
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Here’s a way for the city to play transfer station operator for less


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Budget deliberations the last three years have been relatively civil in nature and completed in timely fashion.
With a preliminary tax hike of 5.9% in the balance for 2014, matters are likely to get heated, if not downright ugly, on Monday as members of council — painfully aware the municipal vote looms in October — whittle that number down to the 3% range before calling it an evening.
That’s going to take some resolve as council is faced with several ‘no-touch’ items that account for a considerable hit to the municipal property tax rate.
Land ambulance costs will rise $400,000 this year; policing at the new consolidated courthouse will add about $450,000; and then there’s the promised grant of $350,000 to the hospital revitalization fund — part of a 10-year $3.5 million pledge.
There’s more than a million big ones right off the bat.
And, don’t forget back in December council approved adoption of a long-term asset management plan — to deal with a whopping infrastructure deficit — and voted to include the plan in the budget to ensure sufficient capital reserves are available to fund the plan.
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