Is jockeying for position underway for the 2018 mayoral race?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe plug has been pulled – at least temporarily – on Mayor Heather Jackson’s vision of a fibre optics network for St. Thomas.

Her plan for a fibre optics information session was voted down in a closed-door meeting on June 20 and Jackson was so infuriated she fired off an email to various players in the business community pointing the finger at councillors Jeff Kohler and Gary Clarke, who put forth the motion that “The Information Session regarding fibre planned for July 19, 2016 be postponed until a date agreeable to Council.”

Council voted 6-2 in favour of the motion.

The cost of such a network would be tens of millions of dollars according to an individual in the know and this may have played a role in council putting the brakes on the mayor’s plans. Continue reading

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Will council give green light to Sutherland Press building demolition?


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Entitled ‘Demolition of an Unsafe Building,’ a report to mayor and council Tuesday from Chris Peck, chief building official, would appear to clearly indicate the city has had enough dealings with the owner of the Sutherland Press building.
Peck is asking council to approve a tender submitted by Schouten Excavating of Watford, Ont., in the amount of $101,135 for demolition of what remains of the four-storey structure owned by David McGee of Toronto.
To recap recent history, on Sept, 16 of last year the city posted an emergency order on the building following a partial roof collapse at the southwest corner of the structure at Moore Street.

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Long-term financial solution remains elusive


West Avenue Cemetery

West Avenue Cemetery

It’s shaping up as a hand-to-mouth existence for St. Thomas Cemetery Company.

City council Monday voted to extend the cemetery board of directors a financial life line of sorts by way of a $20,000 operating grant. Combined with the first instalment in April of $30,000, it leaves them $9,000 short of the amount requested during this year’s budget deliberations.

St. Thomas Cemetery Company operates historic West Ave. cemetery and South Park Cemetery south of the city in Central Elgin. It had served notice it would seek to abandon the two burying grounds effective April 30 of this year if the long-standing city grant wasn’t reinstated. Continue reading

Is there a will for ‘amicable’ solution to cemetery crisis?


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With mere days remaining before St. Thomas Cemetery Company seeks to abandon its two burying grounds if a $59,000 grant is not reinstated, there was some movement following an in-camera meeting of council Monday.
“The general tone of council is to try and work toward a resolution or recipe that is amicable for everyone,” CAO Wendell Graves told the Times-Journal on Tuesday.
“And so our solicitor was given direction to correspond with the cemetery board’s solicitor.”
In addition, Coun. Gary Clarke volunteered to sit on the cemetery board after council chose not to appoint a representative for the first time since 1990.
“I volunteered,” indicated Clarke. “I want to be part of the solution and not the problem. I want this to work in the best interests of everyone and not at the taxpayers’ expense.” Continue reading

Spending big doesn’t get you the chain of office


city_scope_logo-cmykThe final numbers have been submitted and it’s a bitter lesson for mayoral candidate Mark Cosens, who found you can’t spend your way to the top.
March 27 was the deadline for candidates to file campaign expenses for the 2014 municipal vote and all 22 individuals met that target.
Cosens claimed $15,244.94 in expenses, which was well beyond double the amount logged by Mayor Heather Jackson at $5,883.59.
Cliff Barwick, who filed months ago, spent just over $4,000. Continue reading

Council not unanimous in approving 3.55% tax levy hike for 2015


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By approving its Part 2 capital budget and the 2015 operating budget Monday, city council authorized a property tax levy of $47,040,822 for this year.

That translates to a 3.55% property tax hike in 2015, up slightly from the 3.48% proposed, yet less than the 3.8% tax levy in 2014.

The slight increase from the proposed budget presented last week to council during a public meeting at the St. Thomas Seniors’ Centre is accounted for in additional grant money doled out by council.

In total, $281,146 was distributed to community groups and social agencies in St. Thomas, much of that sum drawn from working reserves.

That figure does not include $250,000 to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital for its expansion program as part of the city’s 10-year pledge. Continue reading

It’s five o’clock boys, put down the hoses


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Members of the city’s police and fire service account for an overwhelming majority of members in the Sunshine Club each year and 2014 was no exception.

Of the 96 city employees who earned greater than $100,000 last year, 81 work are based at the police station or fire halls.

This corner talked at length last week with Chief Darryl Pinnell who made it very clear, “A lot of it has to do with base salaries now. Things are getting up to the point where base salaries are getting close to that ($100,000) number.”

Likewise, we had a lengthy dialogue with Chief Rob Broadbent on the factors impacting the salaries of firefighters.

“If you look at the Sunshine List this year, you’re going to see a number of firefighters on it versus officers. It’s not uncommon for our officers to be there just by pay grids. Tack a few call-back fires or overtime shifts on top of an officer’s salary and it doesn’t take very much for them to bump over the $100,000 threshold.”
Continue reading