Following Monday’s (May 15) council session, there was a public meeting to deal with draft official plan and zoning bylaw amendments.
Now normally these are pretty cut-and-dried affairs, usually devoid of colour.
Not in this case.
The meeting dealt with amendments required at the site of Hospice of Elgin, located at the top of the hill overlooking Waterworks Park.
Part of the meeting was devoted to a short presentation from Laura Sherwood, representing Hospice of Elgin.
Through several visuals, we were able to get a first look at what the facility will look like, with construction expected to begin later this summer.
Sherwood described it as follows.
“Hospice will be quite unique in our community. We have an incredible site at Waterworks Park and hospice will be tucked in the woods and have a cottage-like feel.”
What will the facility look like?
He calls it great for St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Fire Chief Dave Gregory likens it to winning the lottery.
Of course, we talked about the announcement earlier this month that Volkswagen is coming to town where it will construct what it refers to as a gigafactory for battery cell manufacturing.
We talked with Gregory earlier this week to get a sense of what that will mean for the fire department in the way of needed resources and planning for when the plant opens in 2027.
“As far as resources and stuff go, I’m unsure at this time because I haven’t seen a footprint or layout of any sort.
“But, it’s what we do,” stressed Gregory. “We have Magna, we have Presstran.
“All the equipment we have, the manpower and the training we do, we’re prepared for anything they will bring to us.”
Gregory doesn’t feel they would need to construct a substation in the new industrial area.
It seemed only a matter of hours after the announcement Volkswagen was to locate its EV battery plant in St. Thomas that crews were on site felling thousands of trees in five wood lots across the 1,500-acre property.
The company involved is CLC Tree Service out of London.
A check of their website and it seems they are more of an operation focussed on tree trimming and removal of diseased or damaged trees in urban areas and not large commercial land clearing.
With heavily wooded areas across the county, is there not a local firm that could have been hired for a project of this size?
What was the tendering process involved and how many firms bid on the job?
A call to Mayor Joe Preston garnered a response of I don’t know, I wasn’t involved.
Why don’t you ask Sean Dyke over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corp?
How’s that water bill of yours? Are you going to have to dip into your savings or line of credit to pay the latest bill?
Some city residents have received much higher bills than normal and we contacted Jim Hogan, president and CEO of Entegrus. The city of St. Thomas contracts out meter reading to the utility who, we find out, subcontracts it to a third party.
According to Hogan, the bills have been estimated readings only for several months and those estimates do not necessarily jive with actual usage.
“It’s kind of a catch-up and a balancing between some of the estimates may be a little high and some were a little low and we’re working hard to get out there to do the actual reads, to verify the actual reads.”
The money collected is then paid to the city on a contractual basis.
According to the formal agreement between the city and Ascent/St. Thomas Energy signed in April 2014, St. Thomas Energy “will pay to the municipality the water and wastewater charges billed to the customers by the end of the month following the date of invoicing.”
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After pitching in with the Heather Jackson campaign team in the June provincial vote, Timothy Hedden is turning his attention to this fall’s municipal vote.
This is his second run for a seat on city council. He was in a crowded field of 19 candidates, finishing 15th with 1,711 votes in the 2018 municipal election.
Hedden tells us he learned plenty from that unsuccessful run and now has a clearer understanding of the role of a city councillor.
“It’s an interesting role that I think I understand a lot better now having been through the process once and watching council meet and paying attention to the things they actually do.”
His understanding of a councillor’s responsibilities and mandates has matured over the past four years, and his campaigning on the plight of the homeless likewise has taken on a sharper focus.
“You might be able to stamp out not homelessness entirely because it is a revolving thing, but I think you can get to the point where there are very, very few individuals that we are having to help out.
Less than an hour after the polls closed in Thursday’s provincial election, the takeaway from the campaign in Elgin-Middlesex-London presented itself.
For the most part, the eight candidates ran a clean race with no mud-slinging, vitriol and finger-pointing evident.
Around 10 that evening at the Knights of Columbus Hall, as Flack was bathing in the adoration of his supporters, word was relayed to him Liberal candidate Heather Jackson was waiting outside the room to offer congratulations.
You could tell Flack was truly moved by the gesture of the city’s former mayor.
A classy moment all around in a world dominated by raging rhetoric and damning divisiveness.
After the brief exchange, Flack continued with his words of thanks, which included a fitting tip of the hat to the riding’s previous MPP, who stepped aside at the end of February.
Wary of having the June provincial election get in the way of his political aspirations later in the year, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston became the first candidate to put forth their name for the municipal vote in October.
On Wednesday (April 6), Preston confirmed his intention to seek re-election as the head of council.
“It’s an election year,” noted Preston in a conversation shortly after announcing his candidacy, “but with a lot of other stuff going on with the provincial election and a federal leadership in one of the major parties.
“And I just thought, before all that gets too crowded, I’m going to let people know so I can go about the job of mayor and continue doing it until we get into campaigning sometime late summer or early September for an October election.”
He admits he has been peppered with the question, ‘Are you running?’
The three major parties have now announced their candidates to run in Elgin-Middlesex-London in the June provincial vote.
All three were acclaimed.
In the first week of March, the NDP announced Andy Kroeker as their candidate to contest the riding with the Conservatives’ Rob Flack and the Liberals’ Heather Jackson.
Kroeker has been the executive director of the West Elgin Community Health Centre for the past dozen years.
Working in health care, Kroeker says he has witnessed how underfunding has impacted rural communities in particular.
It’s just one item on a substantial “laundry list” of concerns that need to be addressed.
“Certainly I have my concerns about healthcare,” stresses Kroeker, “social services and affordable housing and education.
“So there is a long laundry list, I guess, of things which are challenging in a post-COVID environment.”
As is the case with so many things in life, it all becomes a matter of timing. And so, three-and-a-half years after losing to Joe Preston by less than 650 votes in the 2018 St. Thomas municipal vote as she sought a third term as mayor, Heather Jackson asserts the time is right to return to politics.
In this case, she is on the verge of being acclaimed as Liberal candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London in the June provincial election.
Her candidacy will become official before the end of the month, and it is not without some controversy (see the following item).
“It’s all about timing,” advised Jackson, “and I think it’s a good opportunity to jump back into politics and see if I can make a difference again.”
Timing, in this case, relates to former MPP Jeff Yurek’s decision to not seek re-election in June and in the process surrender his seat at the end of February.