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.
Continue reading

Forget the petition, file nomination papers


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Were you one of the hundreds (thousands?) of individuals who signed the Bob McCaig petition which warned the city cannot afford to construct a new police facility?

What were your expectations with this document? No doubt most concerned ratepayers believed the petition would be presented to members of council. Perhaps in the form of a deputation. A barometer of voter frustration.

So, what exactly has happened to the petition? Is it still on display in downtown businesses awaiting further signatures?

The call to action prompted a letter to the editor Wednesday from St. Thomas lawyer Thomas Por.
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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.
Continue reading

Narrowing the playing field on police HQ decision


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Whether you’ve signed the petition and support renovation of the existing police station or are a proponent of a new, purpose-built police HQ, you should be aware the picture came into a slightly sharper focus on Wednesday.
At the police building committee meeting at city hall, members were updated on both scenarios.
Paul Sapounzi of the Ventin Group Architects gave those in attendance a first look at what a new facility might look like on city-owned land just west of the Timken Centre.
The schematic drawings detailed a 30,000 sq. ft, one-storey building (with basement) which would face Wellington St. and complement the twin-pad arena.
The station, parking areas and outdoor compound would occupy 3.2 acres of the site, leaving 1.7 acres for expansion or possibly additional parking for the Timken Centre.
Sapounzi described the early concept as a work in progress that will be “in keeping with the needs for now and in the future.
“This is a test of square footage,” he continued, “now we need to get into details.”
Continue reading