He’s the longest-serving mayor/alderman/councillor currently in St. Thomas and earlier this month, Jeff Kohler declared his intention to seek another four-year term on city council. Kohler has served in that capacity since 2010, but his introduction to municipal politics is a story unto itself. He first threw his hat into the ring in 1997 and finished as third runner-up in that year’s municipal vote. Referencing Eric Bunnell’s People column from April of 2000, Ald. Helen Cole had announced her resignation and council met behind closed doors to unanimously agree Kohler should fill the vacant seat. The top vote-getter in 1997, Terry Shackelton had already moved on to council and the next hopeful in line, former alderman Hugh Shields, declined the appointment to council.
At a luncheon held at the beginning of the year at St. Anne’s Centre, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston was nothing short of blunt when it came to the city’s bus system. “It leaves way too much to be desired. Our transit system doesn’t run on Sundays and it doesn’t run past 6:30 at night.” As those in attendance lingered over coffee and dessert, Joe reminded them the city has approval from the provincial government to help institute a full seven-day service operating over longer hours. That approval was delivered on August 8 of last year in front of city hall when Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek confirmed the provincial government is committing $1.8 million for transit projects in St. Thomas. The money will be used for fleet upgrades – including the purchase of 10 new buses with an additional four vehicles for future expansion – and transit technology, including priority signalling for buses at designated intersections.
It’s one of those unperceived neighbourhoods in St. Thomas . . . life beyond the hump of the Barwick Street bridge. The residents, who enjoy a tranquil setting west of the railway track, may soon be joined by a couple hundred new neighbours if the city approves a proposed subdivision in the Hill and Barwick streets enclave. The Ostojic Group of St. Thomas is proposing a 75-lot subdivision west of Hill Street with Nick and Joe Ostojic making their pitch to council this Monday (June 17). It’s not the first time the Ostojics have sought to develop the open field nestled between the St. Thomas bypass and Kettle Creek. The stumbling block in the past has been the restricted access across the wooden bridge that spans the CN line to London.
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.
We plan to open up space in this corner on occasion to allow a guest columnist to present their point of view on issues impacting St. Thomas and Elgin. Are you so passionate about some element of community life that you are compelled to organize your thoughts to share with others? It could be the upcoming municipal election, the proposed development on the Alma College site, the city’s infrastructure, the provision of municipal services . . . well, you get the idea. Submit your editorial to us for consideration and, who knows, we just may give you the podium. Our contact info is on this page.
Kicking off this feature is an individual who is no stranger to politics at any level. Bob McCaig is not shy on opinion and the city developer was riled up enough during the municipal vote four years ago he commissioned Oraclepoll Research to produce a St. Thomas Municipal Election Report, based on the responses of 400 individuals. You can read that report here. The following is McCaig’s take on this month’s mayoral race.
Let’s start with the mayor’s office. Heather Jackson has held the job for the past two terms. Current councillor Steve Wookey, a popular secondary school teacher, wants to be mayor. He has a pile of signs on lawns, an obvious sign of considerable support. Joe Preston, who served two terms as Member of Parliament for Elgin-Middlesex-London, enjoys public service and can’t wait to get back on the job. He figures sitting as mayor of St. Thomas, he will be the right individual to serve constituents while getting home for supper each night. That’s a task truly difficult for MP’s and MPP’s alike. The fourth candidate is a newcomer to the city – an entertaining rapper/entrepreneur named Malichi Male – who makes friends easily but, being so new to the city, he is likely to garner but a few votes this time out. Continue reading →
Neither of the combatants in the City of St. Thomas vs. Sutherland Lofts hearing was the star of the show Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse.
That honour went to his honour, Justice Peter Hockin , who had no qualms about speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and guiding lawyers Valerie M’Garry and John Sanders down the path of least resistance.
Or as he stressed, “I don’t want to spin our wheels on collateral issues.”
Now remember, this is the same Justice Hockin who, in 2008, overturned a ruling from Justice David Little that gave the city the go-ahead to demolish the four-storey structure.
In reference to the boxes of evidence accumulated since then, Hockin cut to the chase. “Is it unsafe right now . . . there were recommendations of what could have been done but never was done.”
It will be a game-changer for the revitalization of the downtown core. An apartment complex proposed for the three-acre parcel of land at the southeast corner of Ross and Talbot streets that one of the partners in the deal calls “a nice lot that would make for good housing.”
In May of 2015, Bob and Don McCaig purchased the vacant parcel of land at 672 Talbot Street from Infrastructure Ontario for $750,000, well below the asking price of $1.1 million.
Previously the site of a car dealership and the YMCA prior to that, the land had been purchased by the province as a possible location for the consolidated Elgin County Courthouse.
Speaking with Bob McCaig on Friday, he is proposing to erect a pair of apartment buildings in two phases.
The city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”
A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.
In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.
The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.
He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.
So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading →