New life for an old St. Thomas foot path


The city’s newest trail project may very well involve one of the older, well-established foot paths in St. Thomas.

At Monday’s reference committee meeting, city council was apprised of the Owaissa Trail project connecting Hiawatha Street to Athletic Park and then continuing on to St. George Street.
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Existing path looking eastward from Athletic Park clubhouse

The short-cut to Athletic Park has been in use for decades, most notably by Arthur Voaden Secondary School teams to quickly get from the school to games at the sports fields.
“It’s a very, very well used trail,” advised Ross Tucker, director of parks, recreation and property management.
The move to formally create a trail was prompted by queries about ownership of land in the area and liability issues.
The plan is to create a three-metre wide asphalt path down from Hiawatha Street to the clubhouse area at Athletic Park and then through the parking area up to St. George Street. The cost is estimated at $180,000, which does not include any possible land purchases.
The route includes a storm sewer easement which the city does not own.
When asked about steepness of the trail and ease of use for those with accessibility issues, director of environmental services Justin Lawrence indicated the grade would be in the six to eight per cent range.
Coun. Steve Wookey questioned whether the trail would be lighted, to which Tucker responded, “We’re not entertaining any lighting, at least yet.”
A staff report will be presented to council later this fall, with cost of the trail to be included in the 2018 capital budget.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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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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For homeless advocate Jason McComb, it’s awareness not the raising of funds


city_scope_logo-cmykHomeless advocate Jason McComb has walked his way through June and on this last weekend of the month, he will spend time in Sudbury
We caught up with Jason on Friday as he departed Sturgeon Falls — and above the roar of passing big rigs — he recounted his meeting in that community with a small group of elementary school students and their teacher on an outing.
Needless to say it was the type of first-person encounter those impressionable young people will long remember.
And it was an opportunity for him to stress again, his cross-Canada trek is not about fundraising, instead it’s about raising awareness for those who are homeless — society’s lost souls whose numbers now include Canadian veterans.
Jason put it this way. Continue reading

Potential difficulties with police HQ renos?


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It has been strangely quiet on the police headquarters front, albeit the petitions are still available to sign in city businesses and, no doubt, hundreds of individuals have registered their opposition to construction of a new police building.
Oddly, few if any of these ratepayers have attended the bi-weekly police building committee meetings at city hall, where both sides of the picture are being presented in a fashion that will allow an apples-to-apples cost comparison.
At the July 16 meeting, a representative from the Ventin Group confirmed a presentation will be made to council on Aug. 11 which will include the best estimate to date on the cost of a new police HQ adjacent to the Timken Centre.
Most revealing, however, was the update from Sean Panjer of SPH Engineering, which is in charge of detailing the cost of renovating the existing police station.
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Why do we allow warehousing of the vulnerable?


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At first glance, the proposal seems entirely counter intuitive. Let an absentee owner off the hook and reach out to the community instead for their help and support.
But, that is exactly the tact lawyer Elena Dempsey is proposing to turn things around at Walnut Manor — an independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living in Welland.
The Times-Journal has already run a couple of stories on the plight of 14 residents in the home who are served up meals described by Dempsey as appalling not appealing.
A situation that generated enough concern Elgin St. Thomas Public Health shut the kitchen down for three days earlier this month.
Dempsey is hoping local businesses and concerned citizens can assist with food donations in the short term in order to pressure the home owners into cleaning up their act.
Dempsey doesn’t mince her words.
“This owner has to get a mindset review,” she asserts. “He has to recognize when he comes into a community, you start to develop relationships with the community.
“If we could get local produce; if they start to donate stuff then maybe once we get this owner on track he could start setting up contracts with people.”
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Was the pencil really sharpened enough?


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In spite of its length — a mind and rear-end numbing four-and-a-half hours — the demeanor observed throughout Monday’s budget deliberations was surprisingly amicable and focused.
Faced with a property tax hike hovering around six per cent, by dipping into reserves and cutting back on contributions to those same funds, council was able to approve a 3.8% municipal tax levy.
All the while approving more than $300,000 in community grants to more than a dozen groups and organizations.
The real financial picture of the city lies not in dozens of pages of line items, but instead in the notes, advisories and warnings from treasurer Bill Day.
Tidbits like the fact the city has projected a 2013 operating surplus of $176,000. A figure much less than in previous years and chump change when dealing with a $110 million corporation.
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Random notes from the Caring Cupboard Annual General Meeting


It was standing room only at Caring Cupboard’s Talbot St. storefront Monday, Feb. 24 for their annual general meeting . . . an AGM board chairman Ward Houghton and several board members in attendance have not experienced in the past.

Uncomfortable would best describe the reaction of the board during the one-hour session terminated by Houghton with members of the general public – clients of the food bank and representatives of several community organizations including the YWCA and the Central Community Health Centre – still eager to vent their frustration and offer suggestions.

We’ll deal at length with the AGM later this week but here are a few random quotes:

“No one chooses to use a food bank.” – food bank client

“The way people are treated (at Caring Cupboard) is demoralizing . . . They are losing people, they are scared, they are terrorized.” – food bank client

“I want this noted. There is a problem here with the way people are treated.” – food bank client

“We have clients come in who are in tears. They are devastated. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.” – Judith Willey, CCHC

“As a board member I feel horrible. To hear your stories is horrible.”

With no formal complaint process, Houghton suggested clients or those denied food can contact him. His phone number is: 519-631-2212.

Since they are not listed on the Caring Cupboard website, here are the other members of the Caring Cupboard board: Marilynn Andrews, Anne Ashfield, Susan Cole, Rev. Mavis Currie, Maureen Ferguson, Jim Miller, Ken Money, Joyce Shippling, Ted Sturk, Tammy Tolman, Suzanne Van Bommel and Esther Wendel-Caraher.