Thirty years on and Steve Peters is ‘itching to go’


city_scope_logo-cmykThree decades after his introduction to municipal politics in St. Thomas, Steve Peters is returning to the council chambers at city hall.
And he’s taking his place at the horseshoe with an overwhelming mandate from city voters.
Of the 10,259 residents who cast their ballot in the Oct. 22 municipal vote, 8,197 indicated they wanted the former city mayor and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP back representing their interests.
This past spring, toying with the idea of a return to where it all began, Peters left no doubt as to his intention.
“Standing here (inside his home) I can see the city hall tower and my focus is on that.”
Several days after a resounding vote of confidence, Peters confessed “I have to admit I’m excited that interest in the community is still there. I’m itching to go.
“I’m still humbled by it and pinch myself because a lot of people chose to fill in the round mark beside me.”

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Much-maligned Dobbie Report basis for double-digit salary hikes at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykThe release last Monday (March 5) of the salaries of municipal employees earning in excess of $100,000 in 2017 revealed some eye-popping pay raises to several senior managers.
In the case of Ross Tucker, director of parks and recreation, a salary hike in the 20 per cent range
And for clerk Maria Konefal, a 10 per cent pay raise.
One of the explanations given by city administration is some of the senior managers have increased job responsibilities.
Let’s be honest. How many residents out there have had more work piled on them over the past few years with nary a penny added to their pay cheque, let alone a double-digit wage increase? Continue reading

OK, so you tear it down . . . then what?


city_scope_logo-cmykWith demolition of the Sutherland Press building slated to begin Oct. 30, according to city manager Wendell Graves, what happens once the structure is down and the site cleared?
The Sutherland Saga may yet have life to it.
Before looking at the possibilities, Graves ran through what is going on behind the scenes prior to levelling the four-storey building.
“They may start moving things in next week,” he explained. “Chris Peck, our chief building official is working with the contractor (Schouten Excavating of Watford).
“One of the things they are finalizing is the demolition contractor’s engineer is working with the chief building official just to finalize the methodology as to how it comes down.” Continue reading

In-camera report might reveal true cost of renovating Colin McGregor Justice Building


city_scope_logo-cmykA confusing few moments at Monday’s council meeting so this corner thought it wise to confer with Ald. Jeff Kohler on what he is attempting to uncover.
To briefly summarize, Kohler was seeking to have a report brought out into open session, but the majority of council had difficulty establishing just what document he was referring to and the matter was deferred to the August meeting.
By way of explanation, Kohler noted the report – dealt with during a 2015 in-camera meeting of council – presented different location options for Elgin-St. Thomas Ontario Works, whose lease in the Mickleborough Building on Talbot Street expires this year.
Several sites for a new home for Ontario Works were catalogued, including the Colin McGregor Justice Building, vacated this month by the St. Thomas Police Service.

A hot housing market? Look no further than council’s agenda.


city_scope_logo-cmykIn a compelling presentation last month to Thames Valley District School Board trustees, St. Thomas developer Doug Tarry stressed “it would be really dumb to close New Sarum (public school) because you are going to wipe out empty seats at Mitchell Hepburn.”
With the number of new homes coming online, Tarry insisted both schools will be needed. He noted 92 lots in his newest St. Thomas subdivision sold out within four days of release.
Well you have to look no further than Monday’s council agenda to ascertain Tarry was not stretching the truth.
The St. Thomas housing market is on fire and school board trustees should have paid heed to his warning.
Here’s a rundown on applications before council June 19.
Springwater Developments is proposing five buildings, each containing four townhouse units and two lots for semi-detached dwellings to be located on Arbor Trail in the Orchard Park South Development Area.
Shawside Development Ltd., is proposing to develop 59 lots for single detached dwellings and 39 multiple-attached or detached dwelling units with part of another block of land set aside for future development. This is to be located on Old Course Road.
Owner Russell Higgins plans to develop 55 lots for single-detached dwellings on the former Gloin Farm property adjacent to the Shawside Development Area.
And Tarry is seeking permission to proceed with Phase 1 of his Millers Pond Subdivision on the former Parish Farm, west of Fairview Road. This would entail 52 lots for single-detached dwellings. This is in addition to a total of 255 dwelling units proposed for the Harvest Run Block Plan on the former Axford Farm, east of Centennial Road.
Of course the London-based school board dismissed all presentations from a bevy of concerned parents, students, municipal and business leaders and will march ahead with its plan 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.
Again we refer to the presentation that evening from John Hueston, president of the Aylmer Express newspaper, who opened with the Mark Twain quote, “In the first place, God made idiots. This was just for practice. Then he made school boards.” Continue reading

A duty upheld on the rarest of occasions


city_scope_logo-cmykThe subject of sole source contracting in relation to Ascent — the city’s electric utility — was touched upon briefly at Tuesday’s council meeting and it’s a path fraught with danger.
For some time now Mayor Heather Jackson has been an advocate — along with former alderman Gord Campbell, who also sat on the Ascent board of directors — of simply awarding all job-appropriate contracts to the city-owned utility without proceeding through a tendering process.
For the second time this year Ascent has lost out on a city tender, in this case replacement of all street lighting with LED lamps. The winning bid came from Ingersoll-based ERTH, which came in at more than $600,000 lower than the Ascent tender. Continue reading

There’s nothing out of order on the mayor’s out of order call


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Monday’s procedural put down involving the two veterans on city council — Mayor Heather Jackson and Coun. Jeff Kohler — prompted testy exchanges on the Times-Journal website and Facebook page.

To recap, Jackson ruled Kohler out of order as he attempted to table a motion calling for city staff to obtain quotes from local contractors to renovate the second floor of the Colin McGregor Justice Building.

“Abuse of Her Highness’ power at work,” screamed one online poster.

“Kohler is a hot dogging grandstander,” was the retort from another participant.
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