Are advance polling numbers an indication St. Thomas voters are engaged?


city_scope_logo-cmykThe 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.”

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Entegrus merger presentation the equivalent of football’s two-minute, hurry-up offense


city_scope_logo-cmykAny 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

Doors closed on nominations, let the campaigning begin in earnest


city_scope_logo-cmykAs of 2 p.m. yesterday (July 27) the window of opportunity to file nomination papers for the Oct. 22 municipal vote closed. The lineups are set, let the serious campaigning begin.
There were no new additions in the mayoral race at the deadline, so incumbent Heather Jackson will be challenged by Coun. Steve Wookey, former MP Joe Preston and musician/small business advisor Malichi Male.
In the hours and days leading up to yesterday’s deadline, the ranks of councillors seeking re-election and those vying for one of eight seats up for grabs swelled to 19.
Late entries include former alderman Lori Baldwin-Sands; Lesley Buchanan, St. Thomas Cemetery Company manager; Greg Graham; Rose Gibson in her fifth attempt to gain a seat; John Laverty, long associated with St. Thomas Energy/Ascent Group; Michael Manary, who unsuccessfully campaigned in 2006 and 2014; James Murray; and Kevin Smith. Continue reading

Sizzle and sparks at prospect of London-St. Thomas utility union


city_scope_logo-cmykThat buzzing and crackling sound audible earlier this week was the rumor mill churning full tilt at the prospect of London Hydro and St. Thomas Energy uniting in utility bliss.

Mum’s the word from the potential partners, however the picture may come into better focus following a special in-camera meeting Tuesday where St. Thomas council – sole shareholders of parent company Ascent Group – will be briefed on the findings of Grant Thornton, the financial consultants hired by the city to explore merger partners.

Their suitor search has been completed, advised Ascent Group board chairman John Laverty on Tuesday, and they “are in the middle of putting together a summary that is to be presented to the Ascent Group board and city council.” Continue reading

More comfort needed at Pinafore Park comfort station?


city_scope_logo-cmykFor well over a century, Pinafore Park has served as the city’s playground. Family gatherings, seniors’ picnics, the Fire Muster and Canada Day celebrations to document just a few of the activities that attract residents and visitors to this green oasis.
Alas, a corner of the park is known for a far darker reason.
Torn down earlier this month, the nearly 60-year-old washrooms were the subject of interest on several truly disturbing websites.
Their internet reputation was brought to our attention by an individual we will refer to as Chris, a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
He started sending photos of the men’s washrooms, many of them downloaded from adult websites.
As Chris describes it, “Pictures included here are from a website that is for adults but some youth are being involved or targetted. This is but two examples of two men looking for younger males. The two here are or say they are from the London area. They are trying to make contact with an 18-year-old. Both offering money to an 18-year-old. I am sure it is a concern, as Pinafore Park is mentioned.”

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St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital CEO bowing out on a high note


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No backroom wheeling and dealing this time around. When his five-year contract expires in October, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins is holding true to his word.
No contract extension – step aside and make way for a new hand at the helm.
“As I announced five years ago when we negotiated the contract, that would be my last and we’re sticking to the plan,” Collins insisted.
Not that he is necessarily bidding farewell to the world he loves.
In a lengthy conversation earlier this month, Collins spoke frankly of the future.
“I think I still have something to offer in health care. I have a great passion for this work. Who knows what opportunity will present itself. Leave the options open.”
And what words of wisdom will he pass on to the incoming CEO?
“The first thing I would say is they are very fortunate to come into a great community that has tremendous generosity. And they’ve shown it not to just this hospital, but to a lot of other agencies.

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Is Ascent realignment sign of a turnaround at the St. Thomas utility?


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Is the latest grim news over at Ascent in reality a turning point for the beleaguered St. Thomas utility?

In a phone conversation Friday with acting CEO John Laverty, he confirmed rumors swirling on social media of further layoffs.

“We had a small number of folks we let go,” noted Laverty, “but we added the same number back in different areas of the company. So the net loss to the corporation is zero.

“It’s realigning some of the business units, ones that were not being financially productive and we were running out of work for them. Continue reading