In a municipal election campaign that deeply divided the city, it would be fair to say most residents do agree on one thing — thank goodness the damn thing is over with.
The focus on a new police station and, to a lesser extent, revisiting the two-year-old Ascent remuneration boondoggle that ensnared Ald. Tom Johnston, completely shifted the focus away from more pressing concerns.
Will this new council work as a unified body to address unemployment, poverty and homelessness, a staggering infrastructure deficit, the city’s woeful transit system and the west end of Talbot St., to name but a few items requiring urgent attention?
And, while it would be easy for us all to take credit for electing a new-look council, the realization is fresh faces in the council chamber at city hall was an inevitable reality as three veterans were retiring and another two would be casualties in the mayoral race.
Last week in this corner we tabelled the first of a two-part thumbnail summary of each aldermanic candidate’s presentation at a meeting held Oct. 1 at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Each candidate was allotted five minutes in which to introduce themselves and their platform to about 150 people in attendance.
Here are the remaining individuals who appear in the order established by the organizers.
Ald. Jeff Kohler, Mark Burgess, Walter H. Green and Mike Manary were not present.
Whether you’ve signed the petition and support renovation of the existing police station or are a proponent of a new, purpose-built police HQ, you should be aware the picture came into a slightly sharper focus on Wednesday.
At the police building committee meeting at city hall, members were updated on both scenarios.
Paul Sapounzi of the Ventin Group Architects gave those in attendance a first look at what a new facility might look like on city-owned land just west of the Timken Centre.
The schematic drawings detailed a 30,000 sq. ft, one-storey building (with basement) which would face Wellington St. and complement the twin-pad arena.
The station, parking areas and outdoor compound would occupy 3.2 acres of the site, leaving 1.7 acres for expansion or possibly additional parking for the Timken Centre.
Sapounzi described the early concept as a work in progress that will be “in keeping with the needs for now and in the future.
“This is a test of square footage,” he continued, “now we need to get into details.”
Don’t fall for this scam. Someone insists they know the true cost of a new police station and they’re willing to share the figure with you.
The information doesn’t exist and it never has. Oh, there have been estimates attached to various consultant reports, but they are nothing more than that — rough costing based on a conceptual plan that has no bearing on the final reality.
That was the message driven home Thursday at the initial meeting of the police building committee. A body whose mandate is to do just that — come up with a firm price based on a concrete design.
So, who sits on the committee?
It is chaired by Ald. David Warden and includes aldermen Mark Cosens and Tom Johnston, CAO Wendell Graves, treasurer Bill Day, director of engineering John Dewancker and St. Thomas Police Chief Darryl Pinnell.
Progressive by nature is a catchy marketing slogan employed by the County of Elgin that, unfortunately, is not readily applicable to all members of St. Thomas council.
That was painfully evident Monday when a motion to allow internet voting during a portion of the advance polling period in the October municipal election was defeated on a 4-4 vote.
Aldermen Cliff Barwick, Tom Johnston, Gord Campbell and Dave Warden presented some of the flimsiest arguments possible to maintain the status quo, i.e. the traditional paper ballot.
Had this been evidence in a court case it would have been dismissed as not germane.
The concern seniors would not vote because they prefer the traditional ballot over computer voting is a smoke screen since the paper ballot would remain as the primary method of casting one’s vote.
With the very distinct possibility we’ll undertake a couple of trips to the polls in 2014, the wind and water are coming together for what should prove to be an entertaining year in the council chamber at city hall.
Thursday was the first day nomination papers could be filed for the Oct. 27 municipal vote and, to the best of our knowledge, no sitting member of council has taken the first step on the road to re-election.
So, let’s do a little armchair quarterbacking and go around the horseshoe and speculate on who is going to do what this year.
Starting at the top, Mayor Heather Jackson will certainly seek a second term at the helm. Will she retain her voter base and has she managed to gain the confidence of a significant number of ratepayers who shied away from her in 2010?
There is a good possibility she will be in at least a three-horse race; has she the stamina and resources to fend off challengers?
The city lost a good one with the death Wednesday of Maurice Beaudry. The consummate community booster, Maurice loved to tell it like it is.
That was never more evident than his shoot-from-the-hip message for Daimler AG, the parent company preparing to close the Sterling Truck Plant up on South Edgeware in November, 2008.
In a conversation that month in City Scope, Maurice conveyed the following to the German multinational: you screwed up and why should St. Thomas ratepayers suffer?
And Maurice knew of what he spoke, because in his former position as manager of the Economic Development Corporation in the early 1990s, he played a leading role in convincing Freightliner to locate in St. Thomas.
Gary Goodyear, the minister of state for the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, came to town Thursday dangling a $200 million carrot while serving up a bitter dose of reality.
“The industrial revolution’s over,” warned Goodyear. “This is the technology revolution. Manufacturing has to accept the fact that for them to remain competitive they have to use the lightest product.
“They have to use the fastest assembly line, they have to use the latest inventory software and all of these new technologies – many of which are developed here in Ontario – have to be purchased.”
Not only do businesses have to recalibrate, municipalities and their economic development corporations need to focus on the new reality.
An upbeat interview in Friday’s Times-Journal with Paul Jenkins, the new executive director of the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital Foundation.
He is the individual who assumes the position previously held by Allan Weatherall who, like Malcolm Hopkins, didn’t fit into the long-term game plan of hospital CEO Paul Collins.
Well Paul’s fundraising endeavors may become that much more difficult based on information forwarded to City Scope on Friday.
As we understand matters, the downsizing/outsourcing may very well continue with pathology labs now housed at the hospital possibly about to be shuttered at the end of the year.
We don’t have a handle on number of people who might be impacted, although some of the work undertaken could be moved, possibly to Woodstock General Hospital. The remainder of the work would likely be assumed by a London facility.
A bit of a complication here though. The St. Thomas jobs are unionized whereas the Woodstock workplace is non-union so some negotiating would be in order.
The union – which has to be given five months notice – was apparently notified of this situation on July 11. That would mean the final day of employment in the STEGH labs would be on or around Dec. 11.