Can a building simply crumble under the weight of engineering reports?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt was a question posed by one of three appeal court justices that cut to the chase in the latest snafu associated with the Sutherland Saga.
Wednesday morning at Osgoode Hall in Toronto, she queried why “a defect in service would make an order null and void.”
Specifically, why would an alleged deficiency in the manner in which Chris Peck, the city’s chief building inspector, delivered a notice to building owner David McGee, warning of demolition of the structure for failure to comply with a previous work order, render it null and void?
Well, that was the determination of Justice Kelly Gorman on Sept. 27 of last year at the Elgin County Courthouse, which let to the city’s appeal of that decision heard last week.

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Pencil-sharpening time as council tackles 2017 budget


city_scope_logo-cmykThe first of three 2017 budget meetings was held Monday at city hall with the second in the series on tap this coming Monday at 4 p.m. where the focus will shift to proposed capital projects and grants.

The 2017 draft budget requires a municipal tax levy increase of 3.44 per cent. However when you factor in an additional $41 million in residential assessment, that reduces the proposed levy to a 2.32 per cent increase.

Proposed capital projects this year total $36.3 million in expenditures. Continue reading

Will the forgotten Talbot Street apartments soon have company?


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s been almost a year since we exposed the city’s forgotten Talbot Street apartments across from city hall and owner Antoine Trad, who had been approved by St.Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre.

Two of the apartments were to be reserved for clients supported by the YWCA of St. Thomas-Elgin and the remainder are for Canadian Mental Health Association clients.

In the intervening 11 months, Trad has shuttered his furniture business and the status of the apartment project – along with the pair of decrepit upper units at 554 Talbot Street – is hazy.

With a demonstrated need for affordable housing in the city, we queried acting director of St. Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works Elizabeth Sebestyen this week on whether this project will proceed. Continue reading

Is this how you promote living downtown?


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It’s taken close to a week but the city sent a building inspector over to 554 Talbot St. to ascertain what needs to be undertaken to at least bring one or both of the ‘forgotten’ apartments across from city hall up to minimum property standards.
This follows on the heels of two visits by fire prevention officers last week to document fire code shortcomings in the upper units adjacent to the former Capitol Theatre.
So are the four residents any closer to more hospitable accommodation?
Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd said Friday, “The smoke alarms were installed and the junk and everything moved out of the hallway. I think the only thing left is the owner had to order fire doors.”
Take note if you happen to live in any of the similar upper apartments along Talbot Street. Second-story apartments only require one way out, advised Todd. Such is the case at 554 Talbot Street.
“Third storey, then they require a fire escape,” explained Todd.
Do all units downtown meet this requirement?

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The city’s forgotten apartments


TalbotapartmentsjpgThe first thing you notice are the gaping holes where the ceilings have fallen away.
Patches of paint which have not yet floated to the floor cling tentatively to the walls.
In other areas, vast expanses of paint blister like badly burned skin.
Missing tiles in one of the showers have been replaced with duct tape and garbage bags. 23jt04talbot1jpgThe remnants of a skylight are stuffed with a blanket and when it rains, water drips to the floor and down the front stairs.
The pair of apparently forgotten apartments are clearly visible from the window of Mayor Heather Jackson’s office.
The upper dwellings at 554 Talbot St. — seemingly off the radar of several departments at city hall — are home to four tenants who have reached their limits of endurance, shivering in poorly heated residences devoid of proper insulation and plagued by drafty windows.
What’s most shocking is the owner of these apartments has been approved by St. ­Thomas-Elgin Ontario Works for funding to add 10 one-bedroom units next door at 560 Talbot St., above the former Capitol Theatre. Continue reading

Unwilling participants caught in a juggling act


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It’s an unenviable position to be in, but for Pauline Wimbush and her immediate neighbours on Kains St., they are unwilling participants in a circus-type juggling act.
If you recall, Wimbush lives next door to what she calls “a disaster” at 46 Kains St. An abandoned and derelict cottage-style house that has been at the mercy of the elements for the past four years with the owner having moved to Holland.
The vermin-infested house is akin to “living next to the St. Thomas zoo,” advises Wimbush.
She contacted Mayor Heather Jackson last year, however the mayor’s lack of response “showed very poor and weak leadership,” asserts Wimbush.
Speaking to the city’s chief building official Chris Peck on Friday, he outlined the process undertaken when a stalemate like Wimbush and her neighbours are facing drags on for years. 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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