Earlier this month, the province announced the St. Thomas Police Service is to receive $786,925 in funding for community-based safety and policing initiatives.
That should be tempered by the fact funding is spread over three years.
A portion of the money will support an initiative to deal with a modern-day reality in the majority of communities across Ontario while the remainder will support a local program that is a throwback to policing from a bygone era.
In the first scenario, the funding will allow for a uniform officer to remain with the Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST) to ensure a public safety presence.
As Chief Chris Herridge observed a year ago in this corner, “Our community is facing increasing social-related issues resulting in a rise in crime and a feeling of being unsafe in our downtown.
“We immediately need a ‘boots on the ground’ professional health team (mental health, medical, addictions, housing, etc.) in our downtown in partnership with the St. Thomas Police Service who will assist when public safety is a concern.
“The police require a team of experts so we can triage these health-related calls and the appropriate assistance/supports can be provided.”
City council’s unanimous approval of a move to a paperless municipal vote in 2022 generated plenty of pushback, questions and conspiratorial warnings.
So, why not go right to the target of all this distrust and anger, Simply Voting Inc., and talk to the founder, Brian Lack.
It’s the firm that will undertake the electronic vote in the 2022 municipal vote in St. Thomas, as they did in a limited fashion in the 2018 municipal election.
We won’t hold the face he is a Montreal Canadiens fan against him. He is an interesting and knowledgeable individual who is refreshingly forthright.
“I’m the first to admit there is no such thing as 100 per cent security. Nothing on the internet is 100 per cent secure, but we still use it.
“There are people who say we bank online so we should vote online. But actually, it’s not quite the same thing.
“In a way, there is probably more danger with voting online because if my back account is hacked and I’m missing a few hundred dollars, I’m going to know about it.
“If your vote is hacked, how does anybody know? It is not the same analogy.”
“But we have a lot of in-house expertise on security and we work with security companies and we’re following the best practices to make it as secure as possible.”
Last week’s item on the state of the downtown core generated a far-reaching cross-section of opinions, possible solutions and a smidgen of finger-pointing.
Here is a sampling of what has landed from various City Scope locales as of mid-week.
Jackie Harris, a patient care manager offered a valid alternative to security guards taking care of business.
“Why aren’t we thinking of peer outreach workers instead of security? There is an excellent model in London called London Cares as well as other models across Canada and the US. “We are totally missing the boat on this St. Thomas…”
That prompted this response from St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston.
“Thank you. St Thomas has our CMHA street team and the Mental Health Police support team both active on the street. “We, with the help of Jeff Yurek, have reached out to the Ministry for more team members and a Detox, Rehab, Mental Crisis beds.”
A total of 88 critically needed childcare spaces in the city have just evaporated into thin air. Along with the spaces, $2.6 million in provincial funding – in hand – now has to be returned as the city has been unable to not only complete the project, it hasn’t even put a shovel in the ground. And ultimately, you have to double back to the comment from city developer Peter Ostojic, why is the city involved in building affordable housing units themselves? Peter and his brother Joe have completed several affordable housing developments in St. Thomas and Aylmer. “If the joint goal of our community is to provide as much affordable housing for people (as possible), it is important that the private sector be the primary delivery agent,” advised Peter more than a year ago.” So, what have childcare spaces to do with affordable housing? Let’s join the dots. Phase 2 of the social services hub at 230 Talbot Street was to include additional affordable housing plus a childcare facility. Back in July of 2019, city manager Wendell Graves admitted the cost of construction per residential unit was projected to be “fairly high” at $290,515 per unit.
It’s time to get serious and address the escalating challenges looming over the city’s downtown core, advises St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge. After a couple of phone calls this week and an exchange of emails, Herridge took the time to present a case for taking a leadership role in confronting those challenges. “We are seeing a trend where drug and property crime has been increasing,” notes Herridge. “If we do not get a handle on the issues we are currently facing, the big city issues that quickly arrived here three to four years ago are going to turn into the serious issues occurring in larger centres across our country. “As I have mentioned many times in the past, St. Thomas is not unique to the social, health and crime problems being experienced, but we can be leaders in addressing these issues if we focus on where the challenges are and, right now, the challenges are predominantly in and around our downtown.” Herridge starts with a resource primer that should be pinned within easy reach for downtown merchants and their staff.
With a ballooning caseload and the threat of budgetary dollars evaporating next month, yesterday’s (May 24) announcement the provincial funding tap is to be turned on couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the local branch of the CMHA and the St. Thomas Police Service. The significance of the announcement was underscored through the appearance of a pair of Ford government heavyweights on hand for the investment news. Solicitor-General Sylvia Jones, accompanied by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott, took to the podium outside the police station on CASO Crossing to announce $70,775 in funding that will allow a CMHA caseworker to continue working with the police service’s mobile crisis intervention team.Continue reading →
There is no challenge whatsoever as to the merit of the program, what is of dire concern is the hand-to-mouth existence experienced at this time in keeping a Canadian Mental Health Association response worker as a resource for St. Thomas Police. Earlier this month, city council approved an $18,000 expenditure that will allow clinician Alex Paterson to remain with the service until the end of June. She has been on board since October of 2017 when a one-year pilot program was launched. Several extensions ensued, with the latest set to expire at the end of the month, allowing St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge additional time to explore funding opportunities with the province and the South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). We talked to Herridge this week to ascertain what financial gateways are open to him to ensure financial stability for a resource that has proven itself from the get-go.Continue reading →
From the promise of a downtown fibre optic network to assurance the St. Thomas office of Entegrus is under no threat of closure, the future is one of exceptional service, according to the top brass at the merged utility. The trio of heavyweights – including president and CEO Jim Hogan – appeared before council at Monday’s (March 18) reference committee meeting to update members as the one-year anniversary of the St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus merger approaches on April 1. Their message was one of corporate goodwill. Everything’s going to be fine, Jack. The kind of pat-on-the-head pep talk you get when your share of the pie is only 20.6 per cent. And, nary a word on why the city received such a minority share when it serves 30 per cent of the total 59,000 customer base. But more on that financial skeleton in the closet in a moment.
Thirteen months after city council was apprised of plans to revitalize the Alma College property, members are being asked Monday (March 18) to endorse a heritage easement agreement with the developer, Patriot Properties. If approved by council, the motion would – according to a report from city manager Wendell Graves – “direct staff and the city’s solicitor to undertake the required administrative processes and make application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.” Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title.Continue reading →