After a much-enjoyed two-week Christmas hiatus, City Scope returns eager to document what transpires in the new year and what got us to this point over the past 365 days. When looking back at 2022 – the fourth and final year for the previous municipal council – St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston lists housing as the top story. And Preston is quick to add growth in the city is not going to stop any time soon. “We’re excited with what we’ve been able to accomplish on housing and have left bookmarks as to how we can move forward. “Yes, it’s probably the Number 1 story across Ontario and we feel very comfortable with St. Thomas at all ranges, from the homeless side to the single-family homes side, have made incredible progress.” Preston goes on to note the work undertaken in the past four years paves the way for what needs to be accomplished on the housing front by the recently elected council. In reflecting on other accomplishments of city council in the past year, Preston turns to the acquisition of 800 acres of farmland east of Highbury Avenue.
The Inn, the city’s emergency shelter which opened back in January, has a new executive director. Brian Elliot, who came on board last month, was employed in the same role previously with Habitat for Humanity Heartland Ontario. He replaces interim executive director Pastor Cherisse Swarath. In an interview with Elliot this week, we asked what is it about the emergency shelter and St. Thomas that attracted him to the position. “I’ve been involved with non-profits, one way or another, my entire life and so I really saw The Inn as a place in St. Thomas that had been very progressive in trying to find longer-term solutions to the homeless situation.” To minimize the number of homeless individuals in St. Thomas and Elgin, Elliot stresses the need to work with community partners. “Habitat was all about families and, in some cases, individuals and helping them succeed. And The Inn is no different. We’re working with individuals and we’re finding the right supports and the right solutions to allow them to be more successful in their lives. “I think there are a lot of similarities.”
A ceremony was held Wednesday morning on the steps of city hall to commemorate the third annual International Overdose Awareness Day.
Later in the day, The Nameless, in partnership with Southwestern Public Health, held an open house at White Street Parkette in St. Thomas.
That was where Anna Maria Iredale of St. Marys dug deep into her reserve of fortitude to step forward with her personal tale of tragedy.
We’re documenting it in its entirety as a tribute to Anna Maria and her son.
That’s a photo of him below and every picture does tell a story. This one is well worth the time and effort it takes to absorb.
Founded in 2020, the New Blue Party of Ontario is led by Jim Karahalios, the husband of Belinda Karahalios, former PC MPP for Cambridge and now the party’s first MPP.
She was turfed from the PC caucus after voting against Bill 195, the Reopening Ontario Act, which she described as “an unnecessary overreach on our parliamentary democracy.”
New Blue identifies itself as “an anti-establishment centre-right political party.”
The party aims to field candidates in all ridings for the June 2 provincial election.
It has put forward Matt Millar, a life-long Lambeth resident, as its prospective candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London.
A third-generation fruit farmer who also operates a small tech support company, Millar advises the party is all about less government involvement.
“The reason I got into this is I just want people to have more control over their own lives. I don’t want the government to be overbearing and forcing people to do things they don’t want.”
Perhaps the city’s alleged new community grant process isn’t quite yet carved in stone.
We wrote about the grant policy last week in advance of Monday’s (Sept. 13) council meeting where Dan Sheridan, the city’s director of finance, recommended members deny small funding requests from the STEAM Education Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Thomas Elgin because the money, according to Sheridan’s interpretation, is to be used for operating expenses.
Council heeded Sheridan’s advice but there was a notable sense of discomfort with the decision from several quarters.
Which, once again, opened up a debate over what is and what should the community grant policy look like.
Prompting this opening salvo from Coun. Steve Wookey.
“For the benefit of myself and everyone watching, I just want to review this very quickly.
“These grants are not meant for day-to-day operations. That’s where I have a little bit of a different assessment of it currently than the folks in treasury do.
“In my mind, the over-arching concept here is, does this help get something off the ground.”
A critical consideration put forth by Coun. Wookey as it could be applied to both funding applications before council on Monday.
Well, a new wrinkle in the city’s much-maligned grant policy.
As evident in the agenda for Monday’s (Sept. 13) council meeting, the city’s director of finance is now a gatekeeper in the grant application process, taking some of the heat off the mayor and council.
And, it’s not good news for two of the more recognized organizations in the city.
In his report to council, Dan Sheridan reminds members “Successful applications under the current (grant) policy are more likely to be for special events or one-time start-up funding for new community initiatives that align with council’s strategic priorities.”
Sheridan continues, “Grant applications that request funding for expenses that an organization incurs through its normal course of operations are not recommended for approval.
“These could be salaries, advertising or facility repairs, for example. Even costs that are one-time in nature can be considered operating costs if they are used to support the organization’s normal course of operations.”
Quite a tightening of the rules in what has been a loosey-goosey undertaking in the past.
With all the knocks against the province’s coronavirus attack plan and vaccination roll-out, you have to wonder how much consultation there has been with the local health units and their medical officers of health? In fact, how closely is the government listening to medical authorities at institutions like Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto and other experts in the field on a safe back-to-school policy? You can point to the federal government for their handling of the vaccine itself, but is the shortage an easy target when your own program is likewise sputtering and subject to rapid and unexpected about turns? At the grassroots level our local health unit, Southwestern Public Health, is being proactive and has approached the city to obtain use of Memorial Arena as a vaccination hub. The matter is a late addition to Monday’s (March 1) council agenda. As noted in city manager Wendell Graves’ report to members, “Attributes of the site include easy access, good parking and the ability to map out an operational floor plan that would allow for the greatest number of people to be vaccinated as expeditiously as possible.”
While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in long-term care homes across the province, you only have to look at first-rate facilities like Elgin Manor and Valleyview Home to witness the flip side of the pandemic coin. Neither facility had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and we talked at length with Valleyview administrator Michael Carroll about that and he credits the loyal staff and ongoing support from the city. “The staff here are excellent,” observed Carroll. “They are providing great care to the residents. They are very diligent in protecting themselves when they are out in the community.” Elaborating on diligence Carroll notes, “They are very diligent in ensuring that they are screening themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 or any sickness for that matter. “They’re calling in, they’re getting tested and staying home to not bring anything into the home.” Continue reading →
Video surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street. The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information. In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.” Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.