With the observation, “Our assets are the strongest link to the new city branding,” a pair of St. Thomas railway-based entities are seeking an exemption from paying municipal property taxes. Matt Janes of The Railworks Coalition – representing the Elgin County Railway Museum (ECRM), the CASO station and, in the near future, the St. Thomas Elevated Park – made a pitch to city council at Monday’s (Jan. 20) reference committee meeting requesting tax relief. While no decision was made at the meeting, there was no shortage of questions and comments from members of council combined with a healthy dose of skepticism from several quarters. In an email to City Scope on Tuesday, Janes outlined three objectives behind the deputation to council. Topping the list was the need to, “Stress how important the Railworks’ assets (ECRM, CASO Station and Elevated Park) are to “The Railway City” brand, and the economic activity generated by our organizations.”
The Town of Aylmer is already on board and now St. Thomas has the opportunity to partner with that municipality on the implementation of a community notification/alert system. Last year Aylmer, in conjunction with a pair of local industries – the Integrated Grain Processors Co-op ethanol plant and Air Liquide – entered into an agreement with ICEsoft Technologies of Calgary to purchase their Voyent Alert system. The firm’s website notes, “The flexible platform serves the dual purpose of alerting and advising residents during a critical incident as well as providing targeted day-to-day communication services.”Continue reading →
A major shuffle in the works next month as the local housing corporation is to be incorporated into city operations in an effort to create “efficiencies.”
This according to city manager Wendell Graves, who explained Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation — which owns and manages 512 assisted (rent geared-to-income) rental units and 18 low-end of market units throughout St. Thomas and Elgin county — will be brought “under the city’s umbrella.”
In a conversation this week, Graves noted, “We’ve had a series of reports that actually go back to last fall. We announced we are going to take a look at integrating Elgin and St. Thomas Housing Corporation under the city’s umbrella . . . and now we’re looking at a mid-September implementation date.”
So what will this entail?
“As part of that the strategy in terms of the housing corporation itself, the individuals tied directly to helping the residents of the affordable housing units, the client side of it, will be working out of the Ontario Works office,” advised Graves.Continue reading →
With the departure Wednesday of former Ascent CEO Ron Osborne, board chairman John Laverty takes over the helm on a temporary basis. It will be his responsibility to guide the process that will result in the hiring of an individual tasked with winching the utility out of the financial quagmire in which it finds itself to the tune of $14 million in losses and money owing to the city last year.
Not to mention its long-term debt of what, another $6 million or so?
We caught up with John this week and what many may not realize is the St. Thomas resident was a former public utilities commissioner who has been “kicking around the utility industry on the governance side since 1991.”
He advised the process of hiring a new CEO started almost immediately.
“We decide as a board whether we’re going to use a headhunter or not.” Continue reading →
She’s a master’s student of local economic development and a former resident of St. Thomas who has issued a challenge to the city to embrace alternative modes of transportation.
Tara Smedbol, now a London resident, contacted us recently with two simple ways in which St. Thomas can increase its livability for residents. The first focuses on developing cycling infrastructure and the other is to increase transit options.
This is not a matter of recreational infrastructure, Smedbol asserts, but instead it would increase the options and abilities for residents to be mobile and connected to the city.
“The key to a vibrant city with a vibrant downtown,” she points out, “is activity and movement of people.” She continues: “One tactic to increase activity on the streets is by encouraging walking and bicycling in the downtown core and other areas of the city.
“It is self-explanatory that as someone drives a car less (maybe even giving up a car in favour of other modes of transportation, if they are able to change their commuting patterns) and thus decrease the costs directly associated to owning a car, they increase their disposable income.” Continue reading →
Disturbing news emanating this week from the Elgin County Railway Museum hinting at possible financial irregularities.
We’re hearing of the treasurer either being dismissed or asked to step down; a new treasurer brought in; speculation about an upper level government funding application and HST submissions.
A call to museum executive director Michael Adams resulted in this official statement from the executive committee.
“It has come to our attention that recent financial statements presented were neither audited or reviewed. The audit report attached to the statements were not issued or authorized by the accounting firm involved in the preparation and review of those statements.
“The person involved with the creation and delivery of the subject audit report is no longer associated with the Elgin County Railway Museum Inc. Arrangements have been made for proper audits to be conducted for financial years 2010 and 2011.”
The crew over at the Elgin County Railway Museum, in addition to their yeoman service as guardians of this area’s railway heritage, are now the subject of a news item in Built Heritage News, published by Toronto architect Catherine Nasmith.
The on-line journal applauds the efforts of the city in acquiring railway lands and assisting the ECRM in negotiating the purchase of their home (the former Michigan Central Locomotive Repair Shops) from CN.
The direction is lauded as an investment in rail history tourism in light of the “devastating blows to the St. Thomas economy.”
However, praise is tempered with the following admonishment.
“Infamous as the city that stood by as Alma College suffered demolition by neglect and destruction by arson.”
My, how our reputation has spread far and wide. Continue reading →