Councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Joe Preston and city manager Wendell Graves this past Monday.
Push forward with the construction of an 88-space downtown childcare centre in an expedient fashion.
Preston responded as he has in the past, by deflecting.
In his report to council, Graves recommended retendering the project this fall with construction to be completed by the end of next year.
The reason for the delay in going out to tender, advised Graves, is an increase in costs in the neighbourhood of $300,000 when the project was tendered last month.
Putting the cost estimate in the $4.3 million range whereas just over $4 million has been budgeted for the badly needed childcare facility to be located on St. Catharine Street.
“Childcare spaces in our community are desperately needed,” reminded Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands, “and I believe once we start coming out of COVID a little more rapidly, the people who are going to be requiring the service of daycare is going to be growing exponentially.”
After enduring a painful three months of coronavirus cancellations, curtailments and closures, this has been an extraordinary week for positive, time-to-move-forward announcements.
Let’s begin with Monday’s (June 8) meeting where council revisited its May 19 split decision to leave the tables empty this summer at the Horton Market.
Five members of council – Mayor Joe Preston and councillors Jeff Kohler, Gary Clarke, Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – reconsidered their previous non-support which resulted in a unanimous vote to proceed with opening the popular market on June 20.
The market board of directors submitted a revised plan of operation with enhanced COVID-19 restrictions which assured all members of council the health and safety of both vendors and customers would be a top priority.
Three 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.”
The 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
With 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 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
The 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
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.