‘An enjoyable couple of nights’ pays off for St. Thomas ratepayers

city_scope_logo-cmykPicking up from Monday’s 2021 city budget deliberations, council had directed administration to pare back the municipal property tax levy from 2.48 per cent to 1.5 per cent in deference to the economic impact on ratepayers of the coronavirus.
That request by council translated into cutting about $572,000 from the proposed capital and operating budgets.
Council indicated a priority would be to maintain as much as possible the tax-base contribution to the capital budget and minimize the impact on service delivery in the operating budget.
In other words, find the savings without cutting services.
To deliver on council’s request city manager Wendell Graves and department heads held a pair of meetings on Tuesday of this week to ferret out possible sources of savings.
As a result, council grants to community groups and organizations will be cut by $75,000 in the new year. Leaving about $210,000 in the grant kitty to distribute in 2021.
It was agreed to reduce Community Improvement Program funding by $200,000.

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Facade replication . . . the critical consideration in Alma property development

city_scope_logo-cmykA 2010 Ontario Municipal Board decision requiring any development on the Alma College property at 96 Moore Street must include “a faithful and accurate replication” of the front facade has polarized the community at large and the active membership of the Alma College International Alumnae Association.
Will it likewise divide members of council on Monday (Sept. 17) when they address the issue of approaching the OMB to rescind the replication condition for development.
The OMB order was registered on the Alma College property Sept. 9, 2010. It was registered by solicitors on behalf of the city and has been in effect for the past eight years.
On the matter of replication, the 44-page decision states, “Any development or re-development of the subject property that is permitted by present or future zoning regulations, shall include a faithful and accurate replication of the portions of the front facade of the Alma College building, which have been demolished, in a location identified by the Schedules to this Order. The replication shall include but not be limited to: doors, color of brick, roof line, and sight lines to a minimum horizontal depth of three meters from the front wall of the new building.” Continue reading

The stories behind the homelessness stories

Following a longer than he would have liked winter hiatus, homeless advocate Jason McComb is ready to pick them up and lay them down as he resumes his cross-Canada trek in aid of the homeless.
Long before the sun breaks through on June 1, Jason will be on the road to Tillsonburg and on to Brantford, Hamilton, Oshawa and then north to Orillia for a musical interlude with Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas, who is performing a solo gig at Casino Rama on June 11.
Thomas has been a positive influence in Jason’s life and the promise of a ticket waiting at the door was enough to warrant tweaking his route to accommodate this side trip.
“Through his band and through his music he has gotten me through so much,” Jason advises. “He’s had a tough life.” Continue reading

Thoughts on the potential for economic development between St. Thomas and First Nations of Ontario

The following was forwarded to City Scope by St. Thomas resident Bev Walpole and illustrates the “outside-of-the-box” thinking so sorely lacking today. It’s a case of addressing a large-scale national issue with a made-in-St.Thomas solution.Please take a few moments to read Bev’s paper and feel free to comment. This is certainly far removed from the initiatives currently being floated by local politicians and business development groups . . .

From 1978-1985 I was a public health inspector working for the federal department then known as Health and Welfare Canada, Medical Services Branch. My duties included advising Inuit and First Nations communities about sanitation and environmental issues. My work took me throughout the Northwest Territories, part of what is now Nunavut, Northern Saskatchewan and the province of Manitoba. During those years I encountered problems in those communities such as inadequate housing, inadequate and improper disposal of sewage, unsafe water supplies and the myriad of social issues endured by the citizens of those communities.

Throughout those years, I did my best to advocate for more and better housing, clean, safe water supplies and safe disposal of sewage and household wastes. I approached my own department as well as the Department of Indian affairs on behalf of the communities. I encouraged the leaders of the community to work towards improvement of conditions on their reserves and villages. The response from the community leaders was to ask where the money would come from to improve their situation. The Federal government departments for whom I worked and to whom I advocated on behalf of the communities responded with excuses such as “there is no money; resources are limited; and they’ll only wreck it anyway.” It was frustrating to visit these isolated communities, each time reporting on conditions and submitting recommendations for improvement and realizing that probably nothing would be done to make the situation better. I recall mentioning to a friend that if the temperature was to increase in the northern communities, disease would spread like wildfire because of the improper disposal of human waste, and the consumption of untreated or improperly treated water supplies.
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Times they are a-changing

From the St. Thomas Times-Journal

Tool-and-die training is on hiatus and educating the next generation of wind turbine technicians could soon be in place at Fanshawe College, St. Thomas campus.
Thanks to the economic downturn, the local campus has not only seen a spike in enrolment but they’ve also re-tooled some of the programs offered, and admission dates.
Dean Chris Fliesser estimates they’ve seen enrolment rise to 450 from 400 students — a 15 per cent increase — from last year.
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of activity, which started last summer,” he said, adding that coincides with the launch of Ontario’s Second Career program to help laid off workers re-train.
To accommodate those on the hunt for career training, Fliesser said they’ve started admitting students mid-semester, rather than just in September or January.
“We’re providing opportunity so students can come in at different points in the year,” he said.
The personal support worker program, for example, has four entry points — September, October, January and March.
Fliesser added they’ve introduced an “intake” point for May 11, when two new gas technician and one welding program, among others, are offered.
Increased enrolment and the economic reality in our community has required some changes for Fanshawe-St. Thomas.
For instance, Fliesser said they’ve stopped taking students for the tool-and-die program, once the school’s marquee offering.
“There are a lot of people in that trade right now who are not working and there’s been less demand from a student perspective and employers,” he said, adding they’ll bring it back when demand picks up.
On the flip side, Fliesser said they’ve also got their eye on green energy technology, namely wind turbines. He noted a lot of students in the electronic technician program go on to work with wind turbines. Right now, Fanshawe covers about 70 per cent of the requisite wind turbine training.
“Depending on the employer, they may say, ‘that’s fine, that’s good enough.’ And will take them and train them the rest of the way.
For the others, we’re thinking… should we be offering a wind turbine post-graduate program?” he said. “Our philosophy is that we will put on any program where there is demand for those jobs and we can get enough of a cohort to offer it.”