It all comes down to this: Is the Sutherland Press building unsafe?


After a protracted legal battle that has spanned nearly a decade – and characterized as a “battle royale” at a hearing Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse – the Sutherland Saga comes down to a single question.
Is the Sutherland Press building unsafe?
Justice Peter Hockin set an aggressive tone early as both sides sat across from each other for the first time since a three-member court of appeal panel in Toronto earlier this month ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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St. Thomas developer states the obvious: ‘You’ve got to have people downtown’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt 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.

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West end of Talbot Street to be site of ‘social services and housing campus’


The city shone some light this week on its proposal to develop “a social services and housing campus” on a large tract of land recently purchased from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
City manager Wendell Graves updated council at Monday’s reference committee meeting on the development process at 230 Talbot Street which will be undertaken in three stages, anchored by a new home for Ontario Works which is currently leasing space in the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street, the second property purchased by the city from Farhi in the same transaction.

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Council approves tender for construction of St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex


Orin Contractors Corp. of Concord, Ontario was the winning bidder at $9.1 million for construction of the St. Thomas Outdoor Recreation Complex to be located on Burwell Road in the city’s north end.
Monday night, city council unanimously approved accepting the base tender of $9,098,178.97, excluding HST. An amount of $11,440,000 had been approved in the 2017 capital budget.
ST. THOMAS OUTDOOR RECREATION COMPLEXLess than $200,000 separated the top two bids, with the third tender from Aldershot Landscape Contractors coming in at $13.6 million. 
The 65-acre complex will include soccer pitches, a full-size lighted artificial turf football field, a community park with play zone and splash pad, basketball courts, multi-use trail, washrooms, concession stand and change rooms.
City manager Wendell Graves told council opportunities exist to include the soccer and football clubs in fundraising opportunities. This would help pay for items not included in the base tender price, including a shade shelter, a score clock for the artificial surface field, optional bleachers and an equipment storage building.
The St. Thomas Soccer Club has already committed to a donation of nets with an estimated value of $140,000.
A fundraising report will be presented to council at a later date. 
Council last year approved a sum of $450,000 to complete the design and tender specifications for the project.
In March of this year Dave Aristone, director of finance, advised a 20-year loan in the amount of $11 million from Infrastructure Ontario would be the preferred financing option.
Graves had previously advised work on the complex could begin next month.
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Of Mark Twain and the London-centred school board


 city_scope_logo-cmyk“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities.” That’s an observation from David Thompson, chairman of the Near North District School Board in Ontario, gleaned from a St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce news release calling for a moratorium on school closures.
At the May 6 Ontario Chamber of Commerce convention in Sarnia, member chambers adopted a resolution “supporting a moratorium on closures and for organizations including the Chamber to be engaged by the school boards to consult economic impact.”
In St. Thomas and Elgin, the Thames Valley District School board will decided later this month on a proposal to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.

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Sutherland hostages handed a small legal triumph


There haven’t been many in the past decade, however on Monday the city received word of a small victory in the Sutherland saga.
City manager Wendell Graves informed council a panel of three appeal court justices ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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Neighbourhood blight to be demolished in favour of seniors’ residence


city_scope_logo-cmykFor several years it was a pot-mark on the Wellington Street landscape. The burned-out hulk of the former Ramada Inn proved such an eyesore, Craig Geerlinks and Adam MacLeod across the street at Geerlinks Home Hardware wrote a letter to council in December 2015 pointing out “The building has been abandoned for more than a few years. We are concerned this blight on the neighbourhood, and the city in general, will continue with no end in sight.”
They concluded their missive with the fact many customers leave the store “having purchased home improvement materials, those customers look across the street and cannot help but be disheartened that their efforts at improving their properties are offset by derelict and abandoned buildings such as this one . . . Out-of-town visitors attending activities at the Timken Arena and railway museum drive past the remnants of this now abandoned building and must wonder about our community spirit.”

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