Will Ontario’s new minimum wage result in maximum economic stress for school bus operators?


city_scope_logo-cmykAs debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades.
The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading

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“Difficult decision” made to cancel this year’s Fire Muster


The St. Thomas Professional Firefighters Association and the St. Thomas Fire Muster Days committee have made “the very difficult decision” to cancel this year’s Fire Muster which was to run Sept. 2 and 3.
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In a release issued Wednesday, the move to cancel was announced so that members of the association can pay their respects to Fire Chief Rob Broadbent, who died Monday of cancer.
In the release, Fire Muster chairman Daryl Smith noted, “We did not make this decision lightly as a lot of planning has been invested into this event. However we are confident our decision is appropriate in these circumstances.”
Smith added, “We appreciate the community’s understanding with regard to this difficult decision.
“I would also like to thank colleagues, friends and the entire community as we pay our respects to Chief Broadbent and support his family over the next few days.”

The muster, which has drawn close to 10,000 visitors in past years, is being cancelled for the first time in its 35-year history.

The service for Rob Broadbent will be held 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2 at Central United Church, 135 Wellington St., St. Thomas.

Visitation is Thursday from 7-9 p.m. and again Friday from 1-3 and 7-9 p.m. at Shawn Jackson Funeral Home, 31 Elgin Street.

St. Thomas fire chief succumbs to cancer


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St. Thomas Fire Chief, Rob Broadbent, died Monday (Aug. 28) after a brief battle with kidney cancer at age 56.

Broadbent had been on sick leave from the department for much of the summer.

He was born in St. Thomas and served with the fire department for 32 years, including fire chief since 2010.

St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson paid tribute to Broadbent, and his leadership role with the service.

“The entire City family is devastated by the loss of a tremendous leader and a strategic director of our Fire Service. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Chief’s wife Deb and his entire family.”

Broadbent will be remembered in this corner for his refreshing sense of humour, his love of running, his eagerness to work with the media, his invitations to join firefighters in training sessions and demonstrations and his overall concern for the safety and well-being of those who served – both past and present – in the city’s fire service.

Full obit and funeral arrangements can be found here

A clearer vision for Alma College property or another dashed dream?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhat lies ahead for the Alma College property might very well come into sharper focus this fall. London developer Gino Reale is optimistic such is the case.
Speaking to him from his home Friday, Reale was upbeat.
“There have been a lot of positive discussions. We’re getting close to some resolutions. But nothing has been inked.”
While he was unable to reveal details at this time, Reale said discussions are underway with a group on the possibility of constructing a small recreation centre on the Moore Street property geared to seniors. Part of the green space could be utilized for a community garden, suggested Reale. Continue reading

Third time lucky as city pursues demolition in Sutherland saga?


Round 3 of the Sutherland Press demolition derby is officially underway. At Monday’s council meeting, city manager Wendell Graves advised the paperwork is being drawn up this week seeking requests for proposal for demolition of the four-storey Sutherland Press building.
It’s the third time in nine years the city has undertaken this process, and the fact the building that dates back to 1913 is still standing is testament to the success of the previous two attempts.

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

In 2008, a determination from Justice David Little paved the way to for partial demolition of the top floor of the structure. A process halted almost immediately by Justice Peter Hockin. The same Justice Hockin who, in June of this year, upheld the validity of a pair of work orders issued by the city calling for remedial work to be performed on the structure.
In other words, Hockin concurred with engineering reports undertaken by the city and ruled the building is unsafe.
And that has prompted a third kick at the demolition can.
In between these two attempts, the city in February of 2016 awarded a demolition tender to Schouten Excavating of Watford in the amount of $101,135.
Earlier this month, Graves confirmed  “technically that tender was not active.”
And so, here we go again as the city takes a cautious approach to proceeding with demolition of the building owned by David McGee of Toronto.
Speaking with Graves in his office today (Aug. 22), he made it clear everything must be buttoned down when announcing the winning bid because McGee ultimately will be presented with the bill.

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A conceptual drawing of what the Sutherland Press building might possibly look like if successfully converted into a condominium development.

Will companies be reluctant to submit proposals because of past history?
Graves felt this would not be a problem as there was no shortage of interested parties in 2016.
He added a report should come to council in mid-September with the tender proposals.
Meantime,McGee’s lawyer Valerie M’Garry was unavailable today for comment.
Following Hockin’s ruling in June, she told City Scope “We’re optimistic of approaching the municipality and saying here’s a proposal for you, let’s move forward rather than spending time on appeals and things like that.”
She added at that time,  “I think there’s an onus on both parties. We have to pony up and they have to be willing to listen. Both parties have to be willing to come to the dance. And we can do some things that will assuage the city’s concerns and ultimately be to the advantage of the building.”
Graves confirmed again today, neither M’Garry nor McGee has engaged in any dialogue with the city on the next step following the ruling from Justice Hockin.

Related posts:

Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages

No throwing caution to the wind in this chapter of the Sutherland Saga

After nine years, it’s time to pony up and listen

Thirty days and counting in the Sutherland Saga

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Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case.
Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well.
Start probing.
For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275. Continue reading

Charting the pathway to demolition and freedom for the hostages


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter nine years, the city finally benefits from a legal determination the Sutherland Press building is, indeed, unsafe but does the ruling from Justice Peter Hockin mean the hostage taking in St. Thomas is nearing a conclusion?
The city has chosen to take a cautious approach, something it can’t be faulted on after a 2008 ruling from Justice David Little triggered partial demolition of the top floor of the four-storey structure. A process halted almost immediately by the same Justice Hockin.
What is most frustrating is the continued lack of movement on the part of owner David McGee since the June 28 decision that upheld a pair of city work orders. Attempts by McGee and his lawyer, Valerie M’Garry, to convince both Hockin and city staff that the financial picture had somehow improved – to the tune of $50,000 – were laughable. 
Surely the unpaid bills would gobble that up in prompt fashion.
M’Garry had indicated to this corner the next step would be dialogue with the city on moving forward.
So, how is that working out?

Continue reading