Ascent 2015 financial statement will spark your interest


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a much anticipated document and it can be found in the agenda for Monday night’s city council meeting.

We are referring to the city’s consolidated financial statements for 2015 which include details of its investment in Ascent Group Inc.

Not sure whether it is meant to offer reassurance to ratepayers, however that portion of the document opens with “The city owns 100% of Ascent Group Inc. which in turn owns 100% of St. Thomas Energy Inc., Ascent Energy Services Inc., Ascent Solutions Inc., Ascent Utility Services Inc., and Ascent Renewables.

Once you digest the Ascent Group financial statement we, as ratepayers, would be better off owning a fleet of wheezing Russian Ladas.

If you thought the 2014 Ascent picture was grim, hold on. Continue reading

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Will tire-kickers appreciate the new, pared-back Ascent model?


city_scope_logo-cmykThere was more pruning over at Ascent/St. Thomas Energy this week, leaving the city’s utility pared back to the bone.
A release issued Thursday announced Alltrade Industrial Contractors Inc. of Cambridge, Ont., had acquired Ascent Utility Solutions for an undisclosed amount.
This small division of Ascent dealt with traffic and streetlights in the Greater Toronto Area and employed four or five non-union staff and any union staff were retained through a union hiring hall, according to Ascent acting CEO Rob Kent.
Alltrade operates in numerous sectors including automotive, food and beverage, manufacturing and its energy group works within the renewable energy sector, solar, water and wind and within the power and utilities sector.
The transaction does not include St. Thomas Energy, the local distribution company owned by the city and Ascent Energy Services which deals in fibre optics and provides IT services in the city. Continue reading

Imposed salary cap, hey we can dance around that


city_scope_logo-cmykNo disrespect to the hospital’s vice-president, but you can bet Nancy Whitmore was anything but the first choice to replace out-going president and CEO Paul Collins who exits on Oct. 31.

Whitmore will take over the helm in November, but the hospital board of directors did not hire healthcare recruitment firm The MedFall Group only to have them say look from within.

Back in March of this year we talked to board chair Melanie Taylor who asserted the hunt for a new president and CEO would be far-reaching.

“We’re looking to retain the best possible talent who could come from someplace other than southwestern Ontario,” advised Taylor. Continue reading

Latest STEGH cuts no example of patient-centred care


city_scope_logo-cmykThe latest cuts at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, which will see the lights turned out at the sleep clinic on Oct. 3, is nothing short of a bad dream for the former director of the lab.

Calling the decision to pull the plug on a clinic that saw 940 patients last year “misguided”, Dr. Charles George has sent an open letter to all members of the St. Thomas Elgin Medical Association urging them to make their concerns known.

A copy of Dr. George’s letter was sent our way anonymously in a plain, white envelope.

He notes the sleep clinic opened in the mid-1990s under the direction of Dr. Linda O’Fiara. When she departed for Montreal, Dr. George and Dr. Kathy Ferguson stepped in because, “at the time the clinic was generating revenue for the hospital and the patient volume was increasing.” Continue reading

City’s negotiations on Valleyview labour deal deemed ‘bizarre’ and ‘ludicrous’


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s a case of “inefficiency, it’s disrespectful to the employees and it’s going to cost the city a fortune.”

Not a flattering assessment of labour negotiations between the city and Valleyview Home employees, represented by Unifor Local 27.

In fact, Unifor national representative Robert Buchanan calls the turn of events since May 25 when a settlement was reached with city administration both “bizarre” and “ludicrous.”

To recap, on June 8 about 100 City of St. Thomas employees at Valleyview voted in favour of the May 25 settlement.

The three-year deal provides for a two per cent wage increase in each year of the deal in addition to health and welfare benefit improvements.

The employees have been without a contract since Dec. 31 of last year.

The union’s bargaining team also secured a commitment from the city to maintain full-time jobs and add more staffing hours to the laundry department.

Continue reading

Excitement is good, trust even better


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As retirement announcements go, this was an odd one.
The Community Living Elgin memorandum popped up in mysterious fashion at the City Scope inbox to announce executive director Tom McCallum has opted to retire from the organization.
The timing of his decision raised eyebrows in that Community Living Elgin appeared to have fared well in a Ministry of Community and Social Services’ financial and accountability review, the results of which were released at the end of November.

Continue reading

Potential difficulties with police HQ renos?


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It has been strangely quiet on the police headquarters front, albeit the petitions are still available to sign in city businesses and, no doubt, hundreds of individuals have registered their opposition to construction of a new police building.
Oddly, few if any of these ratepayers have attended the bi-weekly police building committee meetings at city hall, where both sides of the picture are being presented in a fashion that will allow an apples-to-apples cost comparison.
At the July 16 meeting, a representative from the Ventin Group confirmed a presentation will be made to council on Aug. 11 which will include the best estimate to date on the cost of a new police HQ adjacent to the Timken Centre.
Most revealing, however, was the update from Sean Panjer of SPH Engineering, which is in charge of detailing the cost of renovating the existing police station.
Continue reading