Who suffers when you can’t get there from here?


city_scope_logo-cmykLow-income families, young people, seniors and those with disabilities are the most disadvantaged when a rural area does not have access to good public transportation.
That was the message Thursday (March 23) at a rural public workshop hosted by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and  attended by close to 30 participants.
The aim of the three-hour forum was to get the ball rolling on development of a community transportation system for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Opening speaker Dr. Joyce Locke, the area’s medical officer of health, noted 35 per cent of Elgin’s population lives in rural areas, with personal vehicles being the most popular form of transportation.
In fact, advised Locke, 86 per cent of those living in St. Thomas/Elgin drive to work, with the average annual cost of operating a vehicle running in the neighbourhood of $7,300.

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There is a great disconnect on winter disconnects


city_scope_logo-cmykFaced with the inevitable, St. Thomas Energy this week voluntarily halted the practice of winter disconnects for unpaid bills. The decision was made a day before the province pulled the plug on such action.
“The OEB (Ontario Energy Board) has strict rules about disconnects and time periods and we have to offer pay arrangements and we’ve always followed the OEB guidelines on that,” advised Rob Kent, acting CEO at St. Thomas Energy.
“We are voluntarily agreeing to the moratorium on disconnects.”
The obvious question is what leverage does St. Thomas Energy now have collecting overdue bills during cold weather months?
“You do lose leverage during the winter months when you can’t disconnect, but what no one has really looked at is what happens when that period ends and the customer has a substantial bill? How do you help them make arrangements and get caught up without getting disconnected in the spring and summer months? That is something we’re going to have to address.”

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Mysterious mishap dislodges Alma pillar


Alma College suffered further indignity this week when a granite column at the front entrance to the property was dislodged by a work vehicle.

Apart from the remains of the amphitheatre, the two columns and fencing at the entrance off Moore Street are among the few remnants of the former school for girls that succumbed to arsonists on May 28, 2008.

30jt04almajpgA construction crew was at the site around 2:30 a.m. Monday when a vehicle hit the column, toppling it and separating the cap from the main pillar.

London developer Gino Reale, who purchased the 11-acre site in March of this year from the Zubick family of London, was uncertain as to why the workers chose to enter the property in the middle of the night.   Continue reading

New Dalewood bridge gives city a creative opportunity


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has served the city well over its 33 year lifespan however the knackered Dalewood bridge is well past retirement.

The Ministry of Transportation supplied the single-lane Bailey bridge in 1983 as a temporary measure and the structure has major issues relating to the abutments and embankments.

A report coming to city council Tuesday outlines the preferred replacement solution: a structure consisting of two vehicle lanes and a sidewalk on the east side. So no more pausing at either end to let opposing traffic proceed.

While no final design is being put forth at this time, the report from David Jackson, manager of capital works, paints an imaginative picture of possible options.

“Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years,” writes Jackson. “With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity. Continue reading

Is jockeying for position underway for the 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe plug has been pulled – at least temporarily – on Mayor Heather Jackson’s vision of a fibre optics network for St. Thomas.

Her plan for a fibre optics information session was voted down in a closed-door meeting on June 20 and Jackson was so infuriated she fired off an email to various players in the business community pointing the finger at councillors Jeff Kohler and Gary Clarke, who put forth the motion that “The Information Session regarding fibre planned for July 19, 2016 be postponed until a date agreeable to Council.”

Council voted 6-2 in favour of the motion.

The cost of such a network would be tens of millions of dollars according to an individual in the know and this may have played a role in council putting the brakes on the mayor’s plans. Continue reading

City’s negotiations on Valleyview labour deal deemed ‘bizarre’ and ‘ludicrous’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”

Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.

In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”

To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.

The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.

The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.

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For the Professor, latest accessibility report would just be more of the same


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile he had become accustomed to findings similar to those contained in a report to council Monday, the Professor would be far from pleased with the latest report card.
Prior to his death in February, Ed McLachlan spent years as a member of the St. Thomas Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee and filed many reports to council  on accessibility issues in all city-owned facilities.
Lesley Buchanan is now chair of the committee and the annual site audit is on the agenda for all to see.
Here is a sampling of the ongoing barriers the handicapped face.

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