Overtime and lawyers exact a price on city budget


city_scope_logo-cmykIn his six-month budget monitoring report to city council this past Monday (Sept. 18), the city’s director of financing, David Aristone, is projecting an operating deficit of $25,000 this year.
Aristone cautions, however, there are three areas in which “the city may have some exposure for over expenditures but the magnitude is not known.”
In other words, that operating deficit could balloon rather significantly.
The three areas of concern?
Let’s start with 2017 salary negotiations which would include bargaining with city firefighters. They are seeking a 24-hour shift structure and unless an amicable agreement can be reached, this one will end up in arbitration. Continue reading

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Silently pointing the way atop St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you think all is quiet on the St. Thomas Elevated Park front, all you have to do is look up to see nothing could be further from the truth.
The first of two large sculptures crafted by area artist and blacksmith Scott McKay was positioned in place this week, high above Sunset Drive in readiness for this year’s picnic on Aug. 27.
Entitled Fear Not The Wind, the artwork is an over-size, functional weathervane.
“Because it’s a windy environment up there, the artist came up with the idea of using that wind to make the sculpture move,” explained Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas. “So, a big, overgrown weather vane was the answer. You go to old-fashioned gardens and they put in weather vanes or sun dials and he came up with a weather vane for this garden and I think it’s a cool idea.” Continue reading

Sutherland Saga: ‘The court costs may have exceeded the costs of repair’


city_scope_logo-cmykNeither of the combatants in the City of St. Thomas vs. Sutherland Lofts hearing was the star of the show Wednesday at the Elgin County Courthouse.
That honour went to his honour, Justice Peter Hockin , who had no qualms about speaking his mind, sharing his thoughts and guiding lawyers Valerie M’Garry and John Sanders down the path of least resistance.
Or as he stressed, “I don’t want to spin our wheels on collateral issues.”
Now remember, this is the same Justice Hockin who, in 2008, overturned a ruling from Justice David Little that gave the city the go-ahead to demolish the four-storey structure.
In reference to the boxes of evidence accumulated since then, Hockin cut to the chase. “Is it unsafe right now . . . there were recommendations of what could have been done but never was done.”

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Talbot Street redevelopment moves east in 2018


Pending council approval, the city will proceed with design work for Phase 2 of Talbot Street redevelopment.
With successful completion of the initial phase last summer – at a cost of $3.2 million – the plan is to move east and begin work on that stretch of the roadway between Pearl and Mary streets.
talbot-street-redevelopmentjpgSurvey work will begin in the near future and include locates of existing utilities, a process that should entail little in the way of disruption to pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
This second phase will continue the success of the streetscape theme undertaken last year, advised David Jackson, the city’s manager of public works.
“The aesthetics of the street will be enhanced, a pedestrian friendly zone will be prioritized, and the majority of existing parking spaces will be maintained,” wrote Jackson in a release.
The project will include replacement of the sanitary sewer, watermain, utilities, road, sidewalk,  and streetlights.
As was the case last spring and summer, Talbot Street will be closed to vehicular traffic in a phased fashion.
Talbot Street plantersjpgThe construction will “include tight schedule deadlines and  financial penalties to ensure it is completed as quickly as possible,” stressed Jackson.
Pedestrian access will  more or less be maintained, with minor disruptions.
While no date has yet been established, Jackson advised a public meeting will be held in late 2017 where residents and business owners will have an opportunity to review the plans  and learn more about construction timing and impacts. 
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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South Path: paving the way to a more connected tomorrow in St. Thomas


Although the city was unable to obtain funding under the Canada 150 grant, an ambitious path project linking the west end of St. Thomas to the east side along its southern boundary will march ahead as planned.
The South Path Connectivity Project involves a 4.2 km multi-use asphalt trail that will connect with the existing London & Port Stanley Rail Corridor in the west and extend the existing OPS recreational to Elm Street in the east.

Continue reading

Details of Gateway Roundabout project revealed at public open house


Several dozen people attended the Gateway Roundabout public information session Wednesday evening at city hall to pepper staff with questions on the ambitious $2.1 million undertaking.

The project includes the removal of the oldest traffic signal in St. Thomas and replacement with a roundabout. This signal and the approach roads are well beyond their expected lifecycle, according to city staff. This intersection is also a significant safety concern due to the misaligned lane configuration and lack of left turn lanes. Continue reading

New Dalewood bridge gives city a creative opportunity


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has served the city well over its 33 year lifespan however the knackered Dalewood bridge is well past retirement.

The Ministry of Transportation supplied the single-lane Bailey bridge in 1983 as a temporary measure and the structure has major issues relating to the abutments and embankments.

A report coming to city council Tuesday outlines the preferred replacement solution: a structure consisting of two vehicle lanes and a sidewalk on the east side. So no more pausing at either end to let opposing traffic proceed.

While no final design is being put forth at this time, the report from David Jackson, manager of capital works, paints an imaginative picture of possible options.

“Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years,” writes Jackson. “With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity. Continue reading