Third-party audit at ELC: Routine due diligence or complaint driven?


city_scope_logo-cmykYou know things have reached the boiling point when former and current staff contact you about the toxic work environment at their place of employment.
Such was the case this week when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert this corner about a festering situation at the centres.
As this individual patiently explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently have sunk so low, some members of staff have hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centre.
The vast majority of staff at the centres are females, very young and fearful of losing their jobs, according to the caller to City Scope. Continue reading

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St. Thomas Elevated Park: An exciting ‘piece of the puzzle’ for the city


city_scope_logo-cmyk“We’re just turning the corner and making it a people place.”
Of course Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, is referring to the Michigan Central Railroad bridge spanning Kettle Creek which is being transformed into the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
In a conversation with Lavoie this week, he had exciting news on the status of Canada’s first such park.
“The first section of the bridge is actually pretty safe right now so except on days when we might be doing heavy construction, we’re going to start opening it this spring,” advised Lavoie.
“We’ll have the gates open, likely by Easter weekend and it will remain open all the time and only close to the public on the odd day when we have a work crew there.
“We want people to go up there and enjoy it because the railing system is in place, it’s very safe. And now, people should go up and enjoy it and watch our progress.”

Continue reading

MPP Jeff Yurek is on the hunt for honesty when doling out MNR funds


city_scope_logo-cmykIntroduced March 7 at Queen’s Park, a private members bill to shine a light on how funds in a Ministry of Natural Resources special purpose account are spent was shot down a day later.
The fund was initially established by the provincial Tories in the late 1990s, explained Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek.
“Back in 1997, the Mike Harris government created the fund as a way of expanding licences across the province, but also letting the hunters and angles have a say in how resource management should be done.
However, handling of the fund has come under fire in recent years for the lack of transparency and questionable expenditures.
Yurek spent seven years working with the Aylmer Stakeholders Group, representing landowners and farmers, to have the provincial Liberals tighten up spending requirements for the fund, which collects $75 million annually in licensing feeds from hunters and anglers. Continue reading

Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers.
In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range
And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise.
One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities.
Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading

Salary review at city hall prompts healthy hike in remuneration for senior staff


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Correction: As noted previously by then police chief Darryl Pinnell, the correct number of members of the St. Thomas Police Service earning in excess of $100,000 in 2016 should have been 46 and not 43, making the overall total for that year 113. The increase then for this year is from 46 members to 49.

A report on the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 is included in Monday’s council agenda. This is required under the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act of 1996.
In total, 117 employees eared more than $100,000, that’s up from 110 in 2016.
Breaking down by sector, 49 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are included, up substantially from 43 in 2016.
At the St. Thomas Fire Department, 46 are on the list and that is down by two from the previous year due to retirements.
In city administration, 22 staffers are listed, up three from 2016.
Most notable is the hefty increase in remuneration for some of the senior staff, while most others saw their salary remain relatively stable from 2016. Continue reading

An August start on Alma property? ‘Technically it’s possible.’


city_scope_logo-cmykMichael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities made an impressive presentation to city council Tuesday, outlining his proposal for developing the Alma College property.
There have been proposals in the past for the site of the former school for girls, so is this latest presentation the real deal?
“He (Loewith) is the right guy,” insisted London Developer Gino Reale, current manager of the Moore Street property.
“It took a little while to find him. But, I think we found the right guy . . . I’m not a builder, but if I find the right guy then that’s who is going to buy it. And this guy, in my books, is the right guy.”
Loewith has a conditional offer to purchase the property, as Reale explained earlier this week.
“There are conditions on the offer until April. As far as he (Loewith) is concerned, it’s a done deal. Until he sends me the paperwork and says he waives the conditions – which was primarily this meeting with council and a couple of other minor things – it will solidify or fall apart by April.” Continue reading

The Alma College property deserves ‘building something that is beautiful’


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Alma College plaque

Members of St. Thomas city council got their first look Tuesday at a proposed development on the Alma College property.
Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities outlined his plan for three, seven-storey residential towers on the site of the former private school for girls. One of the structures would replicate the front facade of the main Alma college building.
The development would entail 400 units of various configurations geared to young families and empty-nesters alike. Much of the land on the 13-acre Moore Street site would be devoted to green space and pathways. Continue reading