Parents and elected officials get their say on pending Elgin county school closings


city_scope_logo-cmykThe mayors from a pair of Elgin county municipalities along with Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek made their best pitch Tuesday (Nov. 19) at a special meeting of Thames Valley District School Board trustees.
But it was a member of the Wilson family of Malahide who hit the ball out of the park in a bid to rescind a TVDSB motion to close New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
The meeting was held to allow public input on a motion introduced last month by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock to reverse a decision to close the pair of schools next year.
After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools two years ago, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school.
Fifteen delegations were presented during the two-hour meeting with Yurek suggesting the construction of a smaller school than originally proposed in Belmont could allow the two threatened schools to remain open.

Continue reading

‘We heard more about Doug Ford than we heard of any other leader, including Andrew Scheer.’ – MP Karen Vecchio


city_scope_logo-cmykProving her inaugural run at federal politics was no one-hit-wonder, Karen Vecchio cruised to an easy victory in Monday’s federal vote.
She will represent the constituents of Elgin-Middlesex-London for a second term after garnering just shy of 31,000 votes, up from 28,000 in 2015.
Liberal hopeful Pam Armstrong was a distant second with just over 14,000 votes.
That is far less than the 17,642 gained by Lori Baldwin-Sands in 2015.
We caught up with a battle-weary Vecchio on Thursday for a lengthy conversation on her local success which was tempered by the failure of leader Andrew Scheer to power past the Justin Trudeau Liberals.
To open the discussion, we asked Vecchio about the strain she underwent running a 40-day campaign marathon.

“You’re going every single day from dusk till dawn. And honestly, the thing that keeps you going is all the volunteers that surrounded you. But physically, you are getting drained, mentally, you’re ready to go. You’re going, going going, but physically, you’re getting tired. But it’s really hard when one time I had a 93-year-old lady who coordinated 16 volunteers. You’re not going to say ‘no.’
“So, I just kind of went to the pace that my volunteers were at. That kept me going every day. Hard, hard, hard, and it was wonderful. I’m surrounded by really hard-working people that motivate me every day.”

Continue reading

Sexual interference charge nets a 30-month prison term for former St. Thomas Police officer


city_scope_logo-cmykA year-and-a-half sexual relationship with a teenage girl will put a former St. Thomas Police Service officer behind bars for 30 months.
Garry Christiansen – a 29 year veteran with the police service – showed no emotion as he sat in the prisoner’s box during sentencing Friday afternoon at the Elgin County Courthouse.
Justice George Orsini said Christiansen took advantage of a vulnerable 15-year-old girl, and added, “adult sexual predators must pay a heavy price.”
Christiansen first met the girl – whose identity is protected under a publication ban – in January of 2016 when she came to the police station to obtain a background check.
Two days later they had their first sexual encounter and the relationship continued until May 2017.
The key consideration in sentencing was whether Christiansen had intercourse with the girl prior to her 16th birthday.

Continue reading

Alma facade face-off to be front and centre in the coming month


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you have been following this corner over the past couple of weeks, you know there is a divide in the ranks of the Alma College International Alumnae Association as to whether there is merit to replicating the facade of the main building at the former school for girls as part of proposed three-apartment complex.
At issue here is a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board decision that determined any new development on the Moore Street property must recreate the north façade of Alma to a depth of three metres.
The issue is on the agenda for Monday’s (Aug. 13) meeting of city council.
The developer, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, has submitted a letter to council outlining his vision for the Alma College property.
Loewith writes, he was intrigued by the OMB order and the opportunity it presented to pursue his two passions, history and development. Continue reading

Health unit collaboration augurs new direction for healthcare in Elgin and Oxford


city_scope_logo-cmykThe governing bodies of the health units in St. Thomas/Elgin and Oxford county on Jan. 10 approved proceeding to the next level in merging the two bodies.
Locally, the health unit is the governing body and so municipal councils in St. Thomas and Elgin were not involved in any vote to move forward with the merger, whereas in Oxford the county serves as the governing body and municipal council had to approve a motion to proceed.
To be known as Oxford Elgin St. Thomas Health Unit, the new entity would serve approximately 204,000 residents.
A new, autonomous board would be composed of four representatives from Oxford and two each from St. Thomas and Elgin county. Continue reading

Are we being led down the wrong rabbit path on utility marriage? Or, how to distinguish a merger from a fire sale.


city_scope_logo-cmykDid you check out the notice in your latest St. Thomas Energy bill? Seems like the utility merger with Entegrus out of Chatham-Kent is moving toward consummation early in the new year, with the new entity to be known as Entegrus Powerlines.
I guess when you only have a 20 per cent piece of the pie you don’t have any say in naming the beast.
And by coincidence, the merger is the subject of a report from city manager Wendell Graves on Monday’s council agenda.
It’s chock full of legalese and ratepayers have the right to a clear explanation of what is about to transpire on the eve of the merger.
More important, what are the long-term financial implications because this appears to be less a merger and more a fire sale.
So, we chatted with Graves on Friday as to what members of council are being asked to vote on as our elected representatives. Continue reading

EPAR 01 final recommendations on school closings and realignments to be presented at April 11 TVDSB meeting


The final recommendations of the Senior Administration Report – Elementary Pupil Accommodation Review 01 will be presented at the Thames Valley District School Board’s April 11 meeting, to be followed by a public meeting in May.
The report is 1,458 pages in length with 44 recommendations. Here are the 42 that directly impact schools in St. Thomas and Elgin. The full report can be accessed here
1. THAT Sparta Public School close effective June 30, 2018.
2. THAT New Sarum Public School close effective June 30, 2020 contingent upon Ministry of Education approval of capital funding for the new Belmont Public School and the new Southeast St. Thomas Public School.

Continue reading