2016 city budget “generally preserves” existing service levels to the public


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Deliberations begin 3:30 p.m. Monday into the proposed 2016 capital and operating budgets for St. Thomas.
In his opening remarks contained in the budget binder, director of finance David Aristone indicates at this stage of the process, city ratepayers can anticipate a 2.32% hike in the property tax levy.
The proposed levy for this year is $48,721,653, up from the actual 2015 levy of just over $47 million.
Proposed capital projects this year would require almost $21.8 million in funding. Continue reading

Police HQ debate set to flare up again


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The debate over whether to renovate the existing police station or construct a new, purpose-built facility will flare into life again Monday as city council deals with a report from The Ventin Group Architects.
The firm will present a pair of options to be considered should council choose to maintain the police service in the Colin McGregor Justice Building.
Trouble is, both scenarios are pricey — $15 million at the low end to $18.4 million for a major renovation/expansion.
The Ventin report details the substantial amount of work required with either option to upgrade the 1969 building.
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What we have here is a failure to communicate


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The right of a homeless man to pick up garbage in downtown parkettes sparked debate on several fronts this week, none of which has diminished the seeming absurdity of the situation.
Caught in the middle is Jason McComb, the advocate for the homeless who, as an employee of the Downtown Development Board, has done an admirable job of keeping the downtown core as neat and tidy as is possible in a disposable world.
In a conversation with Jason last week, he bemoaned the fact he was no longer welcome to clean up litter in any of the Talbot Street parkettes.
He was under the impression city CAO Wendell Graves and parks and recreation director Ross Tucker had banished him from the green spaces, based on a memo sent to the DDB this past summer.
This corner requested a copy of that correspondence for clarification.
“I understand that DDB summer students may be doing or have done some maintenance/cleaning activities within the downtown parkettes,” writes Graves.
“Given that the city has staff in place to look after these areas I would ask that the DDB students refrain from work within the park areas.”
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Simple fun or homage to violence? Zombies stir debate


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Oh my. Where’s the skate park you promised? Why are we paving over paradise in Pinafore Park. All that money to lay down a few hundred feet of railroad tracks and erect a replica station. And now . . . zombies.
Bryan Bakker is a nice sort of guy. Cares about the city and its employment prospects. That’s why he ran provincially for the NDP in 2003 against Steve Peters.
A 2003 bio posted on the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation website even notes Bakker “is an active supporter of Amnesty International.”
He’s an organizer of the St. Thomas Tom Zombie Festival planned for later summer that is geared to local teens. Continue reading