For the past four years, the St. Thomas Fire Department has faced the equivalent of an internal multi-alarm blaze. And, it is to be hoped with the announcement this week of Kyle Smith’s promotion to deputy fire chief that the final embers of controversy have been suppressed. You have to delve back to August of 2017 and the death of popular fire chief Rob Broadbent to discover the source of the flames of discontent. The decision was made somewhere in the corridors of city hall to look elsewhere for a replacement for the outgoing, community-minded Broadbent. This is despite a strong candidate in Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod who, according to some sources, was not even granted an interview. We’ll wend our way back to Ormerod shortly. So the search for a new chief ended in Chatham-Kent where the deputy chief in that municipality, Bob Davidson was deemed the ideal replacement. Davidson arrived in St. Thomas in January of 2018 only to abruptly tender his resignation in July 2021.
He continually courted controversy, was synonymous with waste management and his legacy adorns the front of the Great Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital. St. Thomas developer – and author of 2012’s cautionary tale Madame McGuinty’s Teflon Academy – Bob McCaig died this past Wednesday (June 5) at the age of 79. The former Elgin county school board trustee was not only a frequent contributor to City Scope, but he was also the focus of numerous items in this corner. Inclusion of the McCaig name could be counted upon to generate a considerable response, both pro and con. His was a black and white canvas, there was no gray on Bob’s palette. Love him or loathe him, there is no denying – at heart – he was a prolific community booster.
A seemingly innocent comment at the close of Monday’s reference committee meeting – held prior to the regularly scheduled council session – unwittingly could have the same impact as flinging a full can of gas onto a smoldering fire.
In the new business portion of the meeting, Coun. Mark Burgess waded into the mire that is council grants to community groups, a process that sees hundreds of thousands of dollars doled out on an annual basis.
The response to the good councillor’s remark was swift.
The Times-Journal has referred to it as The Great Divide: the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that is the result of a school board decision to bus more than 200 students to Port Stanley Public School in the fall due to overcrowding at their home school.
Only 30 or so parents attended a January forum held by the school council to propose options to alleviate the crush of students at the former Homedale Public School.
The population at the school has swelled from 494 students in 2010 to 780 in 2014. Continue reading →
The final numbers have been submitted and it’s a bitter lesson for mayoral candidate Mark Cosens, who found you can’t spend your way to the top.
March 27 was the deadline for candidates to file campaign expenses for the 2014 municipal vote and all 22 individuals met that target.
Cosens claimed $15,244.94 in expenses, which was well beyond double the amount logged by Mayor Heather Jackson at $5,883.59. Cliff Barwick, who filed months ago, spent just over $4,000. Continue reading →
The Jan. 19 council meeting in which Part 1 of the 2015 capital budget was unanimously approved is undeniable validation a new home for the St. Thomas Police Service did not play a significant role in the 2014 municipal campaign.
Members of council were united in committing $13 million to construct a purpose-built structure immediately west of the Timken Centre. It should be noted Coun. Jeff Kohler was absent from the vote due to a personal family matter.
In a presentation that evening by The Ventin Group, given direction by council to undertake the tendering process, a Class B cost estimate of $10.6 million for construction of the single-storey building was tabled.
A far cry from projections of up to $30 million floated in some corners during the bitter October election campaign. Continue reading →
In her inaugural address to the new council Monday, Mayor Heather Jackson sent a clear message she is ready to embrace change at city hall.
A priority is the implementation of a communication plan, which would include a communication officer working out of the clerk’s department. Speaking to the Times-Journal, Jackson stressed this would not be a new hire.
“It’s certainly not a new position,” advised Jackson. “Wendell (CAO Wendell Graves) and I have been talking about how we can make this happen without adding to the staff. We’ve got somebody now who does most of those functions but it’s not in anybody’s job description.”
Look for the manner in which council conducts business during its regular meetings to come under review in the new year. Continue reading →
The clock is ticking down on the term of what many ratepayers have deemed the most ineffectual council in recent memory.
That may be an overly harsh evaluation — one only has to look at the two councils in power during the lengthy and feisty new arena debate a decade ago — however there is little doubt the individuals who became known as the Barwick Five were no crowd favourites, with the exception of Heather Jackson, voted in for a second term as mayor.
She and Ald. Jeff Kohler are all who remain as a new council is installed next month.
While many voters will surely take credit for the house cleaning at city hall, the reality is the makeover was self-inspired.
Aldermen Dave Warden, Lori Baldwin-Sands and Gord Campbell announced their retirement from municipal politics and aldermen Cliff Barwick and Mark Cosens were the two casualties in the mayoral race with Jackson. Continue reading →