This past Monday was a busy day for Mayor Joe Preston as he noted the city was able to undertake a decade’s worth of work in a day.
Preston was referring to the city’s three-year strategic plan setting out priorities, guiding principles, goals and commitments as laid out at the Dec. 14 reference committee meeting.
One of the pillars of that plan is creation of a compassionate community and the commitment to build an emergency shelter for the homeless. It is to be constructed in a single location and be open by September of this year.
Well on Monday the city released a blueprint as it moves forward on its compassionate community strategic objective.
It’s a sweeping paper with many more objectives than just a homeless shelter.
The most immediate action point involves the city entering into a memorandum of understanding with Indwell Community Homes to develop supportive housing projects.
With the observation, “Our assets are the strongest link to the new city branding,” a pair of St. Thomas railway-based entities are seeking an exemption from paying municipal property taxes. Matt Janes of The Railworks Coalition – representing the Elgin County Railway Museum (ECRM), the CASO station and, in the near future, the St. Thomas Elevated Park – made a pitch to city council at Monday’s (Jan. 20) reference committee meeting requesting tax relief. While no decision was made at the meeting, there was no shortage of questions and comments from members of council combined with a healthy dose of skepticism from several quarters. In an email to City Scope on Tuesday, Janes outlined three objectives behind the deputation to council. Topping the list was the need to, “Stress how important the Railworks’ assets (ECRM, CASO Station and Elevated Park) are to “The Railway City” brand, and the economic activity generated by our organizations.”
The question was posed recently by Peter Ostojic of Walter Ostojic & Sons Ltd. “Just do not understand why the city is involved in building affordable housing units themselves.” The former mayor of St. Thomas was referencing the community and social services hub now under construction at 230 Talbot St. The subject was broached again this past Tuesday (Sept. 3) at the reference committee meeting in which city manager Wendell Graves updated council on Phase 2 of the project, which will front onto Queen Street. With Phase 1 nearing completion this fall – “something Graves described as a shiny, new nickel for us” – he presented a conceptual business case to council members. The structure would contain a minimum of 48 housing units on two floors with the possibility of more units should the structure be expanded to a third or fourth floor. The estimated cost of constructing each unit is $225,000 with 24 of them renting out at $500 or so per month and another 24 geared to income at approximately $300 per month.
In the end, the allure of economic opportunity prevailed over health and policing concerns. It was not unanimous, however, city council last night (Jan. 14) voted 6-2 to opt into the province’s cannabis retail outlet program. Councillors Jeff Kohler and Mark Tinlin were opposed while Gary Clarke was absent for the vote. Giving the green light to one or more retail outlets in St. Thomas doesn’t mean a pot shop will sprout up on a city street any time soon. Last month the province reversed course and announced it will limit the number of initial licences to 25 because of cannabis supply shortages. And last Friday (Jan. 11) in the opening round of the cannabis retail lottery, 25 winning applicants were announced – seven in southwestern Ontario – who now have the opportunity to apply for a provincial retail licence. Continue reading →
The municipal vote is Monday and for the first time in St. Thomas, advance polling is available via internet and telephone. As of 11 a.m. Friday, 12.73 per cent of the 28,034 eligible voters in the city had cast their ballot, with 3,300 voting via the internet and 268 by telephone. By comparison, 9.67 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballot through in-person advance voting in the 2014 municipal election. The total voter turnout that year was 37 per cent. Tim Hedden, one of 19 candidates running for councillor, asked the obvious question in response to a City Scope Tweet on this year’s advance polling system. “Curious to see if it drives voter turnout up or just made it more convenient for those that already vote.”
Any concerns about having to endure a lengthy dissertation from Rob Kent of Entegrus on the utility merger with St. Thomas Energy were quickly put to rest Monday evening. And, we do mean quickly. His presentation on the 15-month process to complete the merger, which was executed on April 1 of this year, came in at four seconds shy of two minutes. That’s right, two minutes, with little in the way of enlightenment or answers to the many questions surrounding what is more a fire sale than a merger. The city gets a 20.57 per cent stake in Entegrus Inc., meaning we will have little say in the operation of the entity. Continue reading →
Mayoral hopeful Steve Wookey is not giving up his campaign to allow small craft and fishing at Lake Margaret. Wookey first expressed this desire at an April 24, 2017 reference committee meeting when he declared, “In my world there should be fishing and canoeing.” He was reminded the decision to prohibit fishing in Lake Margaret was a recommendation of the 2010 Lake Margaret Environmental Plan. Under discussion that meeting was the transfer of ownership of Lake Margaret to the city from developer Doug Tarry Limited. City manager Wendell Graves particularly stressed the need to enforce the no fishing regulation. And, the aim of striking an environmental stewardship committee which would report to city council. It would include members of council, city staff, developers, the Kettle Creek Conservation Authority and members of the public who would, among other things, develop an action plan and pursue funding opportunities for stewardship. Continue reading →
With the provincial vote less than two weeks away, the leaders of the three main parties have promised billions of dollars in goodies to entice voters. Trouble is, there is a real lack of detail forthcoming on how these enticements will be funded. As a ratepayer, that should be a concern for you and when considering which candidate will receive your vote, ask them first who is picking up the tab. As Lynn Dollin, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, correctly notes, “The provincial government dictates and regulates municipal services. At the same time, municipal governments deliver and help fund key provincial programs, like social housing and child care. Our fates are deeply intertwined.” Continue reading →