The city’s much-maligned transit system may very well become a greatly relied upon people mover if council endorses the recommendations of the soon-to-be-released Strategic Transit Plan. The proposed changes would involve route and schedule adjustments, the introduction of demand-responsive transit (DRT), the possibility of larger buses and electric bus technology and a pilot project to explore regional bus service. At Monday’s (Nov. 18) reference committee meeting, Brian Putre of Stantec Consulting and city engineer Justin Lawrence presented an overview of recommendations to members of city council. The plan, which is 95 per cent complete, drew favourable comments from all of council, including the stark observation from Coun. Joan Rymal that “any change is better than what we have now.”
City Scope has spent almost five years documenting the shortcomings at Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland. From meals described as appalling to bare bones maintenance and housekeeping to, most recently, an infestation of bed bugs. Now you can add owner Vishal Chityal’s refusal to add a sprinkler system to the ageing facility which has housed upward of a dozen residents at any one time. In the second part of our examination into fire safety at facilities housing the city’s most vulnerable individuals, we talk with St. Thomas Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd about Walnut Manor and Elizabeth Sebestyen, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services director, about the options available for the city to protect residents of these unsprinklered group homes.Continue reading →
The first report of the city’s site plan control committee for 2019 will be presented to council Monday (Jan. 21) and it deals in depth with the application filed by the Sierra Group of Companies for the proposed Alma property development. The Sierra Group is the consultant for Patriot Properties which is purchasing the site and seeks to build a trio of residential towers on the Moore Street property. The development is to be completed in three phases and, when finished, would be comprised of 430 apartment units. Following a pair of site plan meetings in November and December, the committee passed a resolution recommending council consider the application for final approval. Patriot Properties has not yet purchased the 11-acre site from London developer Gino Reale, pending completion of soil remediation work and removing what remains of the former buildings. The residential development would occupy approximately seven acres.
On any given night, anywhere from a dozen to 18 of the city’s most vulnerable citizens lay down their heads in bed bug infested rooms at a dilapidated facility wanting for even the most basic of housekeeping efforts. Their daily menu, as aptly described by lawyer advocate Elena Dempsey, is appalling not appealing. And now, we find out these residents of Walnut Manor will not even benefit from the simple comfort of knowing their long-past-the-best-before-date hovel will be equipped with a life-saving sprinkler system. Why is it other residential care facilities in St. Thomas are mandated to install sprinkler systems by the end of the year and yet this independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland is exempt from this regulation? Why is it, once again, the residents of Walnut Manor fall through the cracks? Continue reading →
For the first time in St. Thomas, advance polling for the Oct. 22 vote was available via internet and telephone. However, the hoped-for technological turnaround in voter turnout doesn’t turn up in the numbers. That’s according to a report presented to council at Monday’s (Nov. 5) reference committee meeting compiled by city clerk Maria Konefal. It’s a comprehensive break-out of the balloting and there are numerous surprises, and the data may pave the way for further electronic advances in the 2022 municipal election. Tim Hedden, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win a councillor seat nailed it with his observation, “Curious to see if it drives voter turnout up or just made it more convenient for those that already vote.” In an interview this week, Konefal noted “The thing I found interesting is we didn’t have too much of a change in the percentage turnout. But, of the people who voted, 44 percent of them voted electronically. Most of that was by internet.”
With advance polling for the Oct. 22 municipal vote set to begin Wednesday (Oct. 10), it’s time to examine several strategies before you cast your ballot to elect individuals (hopefully) who can be trusted to best shape the future of the city over the next four years. Prior to the 2003 municipal vote, City Scope consulted the author of a citizen’s guide to electing better public officials who encourages voters to maximize the impact of their electoral decision. Charles Bens has consulted more than 200 public sector organizations in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and he advocates a process he calls “quality voting.” In the race for councillors, voters can cast up to a maximum of eight votes, but Bens stresses there is no requirement to endorse eight candidates. Continue reading →
What began this spring as a third-party audit undertaken by the city has escalated into a series of shocking and disturbing allegations and counter-allegations involving the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre – which operates childcare facilities in four different locations – and its former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers. The allegations include a claim by Riddell-Laemers she was sexually assaulted by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service who was on the centre’s board of directors. As background, City Scope was contacted in March by a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas with information on the departure of Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed. Continue reading →