Food for thought over at the food bank


A young mother this week posted on the Times-Journal Facebook page her desperate plea for assistance. “I needed bread and milk. Quite desperately. I have a week left until I get CCTB (Canada child tax benefit) and I am almost out of both.”
She did what many in St. Thomas would do, she gathered up spare change and headed to the Caring Cupboard food bank.
On her arrival, she discovered numerous changes, including a new executive director, Janice Kinnaird.
The young mother had previously complied with the need to show personal ID, proof of income and rental information so she could receive much-needed food assistance in the future simply by arriving with an item of identification.
She was denied assistance this time out because she could not comply with the new policy of presenting full ID.
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Has waste contractor got act together?

The city’s new waste contractor takes to the streets in a couple of weeks and we can only hope the launch is a smoother affair than the day-to-day operations up in Whitchurch-Stouffville, north of Toronto.
The new contractor, Green for Life, takes over from BFI in St. Thomas, which in turn replaced Green Lane Environmental.
Green for Life not only serves Whitchurch-Stouffville, but several other municipalities in York Region where it has been experiencing mechanical issues with its trucks, leading to missed collections.
That has been compounded by a lack of communication from GFL on the service disruptions.
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Of camels and rich men and costly back-tracking


The cost of the proposed new police headquarters has nearly doubled over the past eight years because
of the feet dragging of successive councils.

Dithering being perpetuated by some aldermen who, as a result, are directly hitting ratepayers where it hurts most — the pocket.

In 2003, a building condition assessment and space needs assessment study of the justice building was undertaken by the Stonewall Group.

Its recommendation: “the principal strategy to meet the long-term accommodation needs of the St. Thomas Police Service would be best served by building a totally new facility.”

Estimated cost, $10.5 million.
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I have Googled, therefore I am . . . an expert


Wednesday’s special meeting of council to deal with the proposed new police headquarters provides further evidence much of what transpires at city hall is driven by personal agendas.

Which, in turn, sucks more dollars out of the pockets of hard-working ratepayers.

Council was presented with a report from Rebanks Pepper Littlewood Architects that outlined the specifics of the project, including the sticker price of approximately $19 million.

That figure sent some members into shock, with the result their ability to think logically was severely hampered.

Let’s review some undeniable facts.
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Putting transparency to the test at city open house


After decades of dawdling, similar in process to the consoldiated courthouse project finally underway, an open house will be held 5 p.m. Wednesday at city hall to unveil plans and cost of the new police headquarters.
The long-awaited home of the police service is to located on city-owned land adjacent to the Timken Centre.
Ald. Dave Warden, chairman of the new building committee, says it’s an occasion to not only inform ratepayers, but demonstrate “the transparency of everything that’s going on,” and attach a price tag to the project.
Warden continues: “We’ll lay to rest all the rumours and everything else there is about the police building. We’ll have the actual cost.”
Nowhere near the $30 million sticker price being promoted by one member of council.
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Council set to strip Alma College of heritage designation


Two years after Alma College was torched, the city is moving in for the kill.
When it sits Monday, council will consider a report from city clerk Wendell Graves that calls for repealing the heritage designation on the Moore Street property, in place since 1994.
In December of that year, the property and all key buildings were desginated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. The historical significance of the site is also recognized through a provincial plaque, which recently went missing.
This is all possible because in 2007 the city cut a deal with Alma Heritage Estates, owners of the former school for girls since 1998, which allowed the Zubick family of London, Ont., to demolish most of the college.
Under terms of that agreement, the designation bylaw would be repealed and most of the main building, except for a small portion of the facade and belfry tower, would be demolished.
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Search for greener pastures is costing service to community

You would think with seven staffers jettisoned in recent months, there would be plenty of work space available at 99 Edward St., home of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health.
And with a generous offer on the table from their landlord, the County of Elgin, which would see a 50% reduction in rent with an additional 4,000 square feet thrown in as a bonus, surely office space would be low on the priority scale for the publicly-funded health unit.
Boy, is this corner so not with the game plan.
Elgin St. Thomas Public Health (ESTPH) is now inviting proposals for “a physical needs assessment regarding the needs of general space for all ESTPH programs and services.”
Or, as executive director Cynthia St. John puts it, “The Board is seeking the assistance of a firm to guide us in determining all of our needs with respect to new office space – either in a new building or a renovated one.”
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Who pays for multi-million-dollar streetscape makeover?

An ambitious proposal to beautify the downtown streetscape is a winner in all regards, with one notable exception.

The expected price tag of close to $9 million will likely ensure this vision will shine no further than the bookshelf where so many other studies and reports reside.

The twin roadblocks of the city’s ever-burgeoning debt load and that queasy feeling associated with selling this to constituents in an election year are formidable obstacles to conquer.

Right plan, wrong time.

Shelling out millions for trees, flowers and upgrades to infrastructure to ensure Christmas lights twinkle along Talbot is a tough sell when St. Thomas is treading to stay afloat economically.
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Only city hall can alleviate condo owners’ concerns over double dipping

Hardly a week goes by of late without some aspect of garbage collection or recycling muscling their way into headlines.
A particularly thorny issue for council is the so-called double-dipping faced by condominium owners and apartment tenants (although the solution is clearly a simple matter of will as is evident once you read further).
To shed light on this aspect of the municipal waste contract between the city and BFI Canada, this corner sat down with Bob McCaig, the former owner/operator of the Green Lane landfill site and provider of municipal garbage collection, but now just a concerned private citizen eager to provide insight.
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