Thirty days and counting in the Sutherland Saga


“It ain’t over till it’s over,” cautioned baseball legend Yogi Berra.
And truer words were never spoken in reference to the protracted Sutherland Saga. 
A ruling released this week by Justice Peter Hockin confirmed two work orders issued by the city in 2015 and 2016 are valid – a decision based on evidence presented by the city’s legal counsel John Sanders and Valerie M’Garry, representing building owner David McGee, at a June 2nd hearing at the Elgin County courthouse. Continue reading

In-camera report might reveal true cost of renovating Colin McGregor Justice Building


city_scope_logo-cmykA confusing few moments at Monday’s council meeting so this corner thought it wise to confer with Ald. Jeff Kohler on what he is attempting to uncover.
To briefly summarize, Kohler was seeking to have a report brought out into open session, but the majority of council had difficulty establishing just what document he was referring to and the matter was deferred to the August meeting.
By way of explanation, Kohler noted the report – dealt with during a 2015 in-camera meeting of council – presented different location options for Elgin-St. Thomas Ontario Works, whose lease in the Mickleborough Building on Talbot Street expires this year.
Several sites for a new home for Ontario Works were catalogued, including the Colin McGregor Justice Building, vacated this month by the St. Thomas Police Service.

Nine years after the fire, a brick from Alma College initiates healing for Ivan Zinn


Vilified for his role in the blaze that hastened the demise of iconic Alma College in St. Thomas, nine years later a shadow has been lifted from Ivan Zinn’s past.
On May 28, 2008, Zinn and a fellow Arthur Voaden Secondary School student scrambled through a back window into Alma College where they set fire to a mattress found under a stairwell, little expecting “all hell to break loose” as described by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service during a taped interview.
Just 15 at the time he and the co-accused were charged with arson and on Sept. 24, 2009, Justice Donald Ebbs sentenced them to two years probation, the maximum allowed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In addition, they were to undertake 240 hours of community work.

Continue reading

A hot housing market? Look no further than council’s agenda.


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a compelling presentation last month to Thames Valley District School Board trustees, St. Thomas developer Doug Tarry stressed “it would be really dumb to close New Sarum (public school) because you are going to wipe out empty seats at Mitchell Hepburn.”
With the number of new homes coming online, Tarry insisted both schools will be needed. He noted 92 lots in his newest St. Thomas subdivision sold out within four days of release.
Well you have to look no further than Monday’s council agenda to ascertain Tarry was not stretching the truth.
The St. Thomas housing market is on fire and school board trustees should have paid heed to his warning.
Here’s a rundown on applications before council June 19.
Springwater Developments is proposing five buildings, each containing four townhouse units and two lots for semi-detached dwellings to be located on Arbor Trail in the Orchard Park South Development Area.
Shawside Development Ltd., is proposing to develop 59 lots for single detached dwellings and 39 multiple-attached or detached dwelling units with part of another block of land set aside for future development. This is to be located on Old Course Road.
Owner Russell Higgins plans to develop 55 lots for single-detached dwellings on the former Gloin Farm property adjacent to the Shawside Development Area.
And Tarry is seeking permission to proceed with Phase 1 of his Millers Pond Subdivision on the former Parish Farm, west of Fairview Road. This would entail 52 lots for single-detached dwellings. This is in addition to a total of 255 dwelling units proposed for the Harvest Run Block Plan on the former Axford Farm, east of Centennial Road.
Of course the London-based school board dismissed all presentations from a bevy of concerned parents, students, municipal and business leaders and will march ahead with its plan to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.
Again we refer to the presentation that evening from John Hueston, president of the Aylmer Express newspaper, who opened with the Mark Twain quote, “In the first place, God made idiots. This was just for practice. Then he made school boards.” Continue reading

Lots of red ink, but rest assured nothing will be written off


city_scope_logo-cmyk
With municipal councils in St. Thomas and Chatham-Kent having approved the merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, all that is required is the go-ahead from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), likely to happen late this year with a target merger date of Jan. 1, 2018.
Oh, and there is that prickly matter of a not insignificant amount of long-term debt run up by Ascent Group, St. Thomas Energy’s parent – city treasurer David Aristone refers to it as bank debt – and in excess of $5 million owed the municipality for the collection of water bills dating back to at least 2014.
It’s not a subject open to much in the way of discussion by either Aristone or St. Thomas Energy acting CEO Rob Kent. 

Continue reading

City council gives green light to St. Thomas Energy merger; we remain in the dark on status of debt


Municipal councils in St. Thomas and Chatham-Kent this week gave their blessing to the merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus. The utility marriage now needs approval from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), likely to happen late this year with a target merger date of Jan. 1, 2018.
However, neither the city treasurer nor the acting CEO at St. Thomas Energy are forthcoming with details on how the long-term debt – reported to be greater than $20 million – and the more than $5 million owing the city on the collection of water bills will be accounted for in the merger.
St. Thomas Energy will become a 20 per cent stakeholder in the new entity, which will service close to 60,000 customers in southwestern Ontario,  making it the 11th largest utility in the province. 

Continue reading

‘It just sits there.’ Is the Sutherland Press building a monument to something or an over-sized bird house?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen we last looked in on the Sutherland Saga, one question remained unanswered. Is the four-storey structure looming over the downtown core unsafe?
After a day-long hearing Friday at the Elgin County Courthouse – in which lawyer Valerie M’Garry, representing owner David McGee, and John Sanders, representing the city’s chief building official Chris Peck, parried over the definition of unsafe and is there a definition of a safe structure – little headway was made in what has become a dizzying debate over semantics.
And, as was the case on the opening day of the hearing a week ago, it was Justice Peter Hockin who dominated proceedings. Pondering aloud at one point, “What if this place is not insurable from a liability point of view?”
To backtrack for a moment, the purpose of the two-day hearing is to get down to business and deal with the decision of a three-member court of appeal panel handed down last month in which it ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

Continue reading