Mergers are all about creating efficiencies, so who will be left at the alter in health unit marriage?


city_scope_logo-cmykFriday’s announcement of the proposed merger of Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and Oxford County Public Health – which aligns with the province’s call for fewer health units with autonomous boards – is, no doubt, intended to create efficiencies.
Such is the desired effect of any merger, no matter the business sector.
To quote the media release, the two health units “began exploring a potential merger as a way of working towards a strong, unified rural voice for public health in Ontario.”
To further quote from the release, “The intent to merge was formalized through a letter of intent signed by Oxford County Warden David Mayberry on November 8 and Elgin St. Thomas Board of Health Chair Bernie Wiehle on November 9. The letter of intent commits both organizations to a review of each other’s finances, operations and assets; to equally sharing any costs associated with the merger; and to pursuing the necessary statutory and regulatory change at the provincial level before the merger becomes official.” Continue reading

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You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?


city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading

A clearer vision for Alma College property or another dashed dream?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhat lies ahead for the Alma College property might very well come into sharper focus this fall. London developer Gino Reale is optimistic such is the case.
Speaking to him from his home Friday, Reale was upbeat.
“There have been a lot of positive discussions. We’re getting close to some resolutions. But nothing has been inked.”
While he was unable to reveal details at this time, Reale said discussions are underway with a group on the possibility of constructing a small recreation centre on the Moore Street property geared to seniors. Part of the green space could be utilized for a community garden, suggested Reale. Continue reading

Answers needed on dealing with Ascent long-term debt


city_scope_logo-cmykWith a 322-page agenda plus several deputations and presentations to deal with, members of council won’t be putting the wraps on Monday’s council meeting in 45 minutes or less, as is often the case.
Especially if they do what they are paid to do and represent St. Thomas ratepayers. Forget lobbing softballs and ask the tough questions. Forget the platitudes to staff about a job well done on this report or that. Of course the report is exceptional, that’s the job of staff at city hall and they do it well.
Start probing.
For instance, how about the city’s consolidated financial report for 2016. We’ll point you in the right direction at Page 275. Continue reading

New life for an old St. Thomas foot path


The city’s newest trail project may very well involve one of the older, well-established foot paths in St. Thomas.

At Monday’s reference committee meeting, city council was apprised of the Owaissa Trail project connecting Hiawatha Street to Athletic Park and then continuing on to St. George Street.
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Existing path looking eastward from Athletic Park clubhouse

The short-cut to Athletic Park has been in use for decades, most notably by Arthur Voaden Secondary School teams to quickly get from the school to games at the sports fields.
“It’s a very, very well used trail,” advised Ross Tucker, director of parks, recreation and property management.
The move to formally create a trail was prompted by queries about ownership of land in the area and liability issues.
The plan is to create a three-metre wide asphalt path down from Hiawatha Street to the clubhouse area at Athletic Park and then through the parking area up to St. George Street. The cost is estimated at $180,000, which does not include any possible land purchases.
The route includes a storm sewer easement which the city does not own.
When asked about steepness of the trail and ease of use for those with accessibility issues, director of environmental services Justin Lawrence indicated the grade would be in the six to eight per cent range.
Coun. Steve Wookey questioned whether the trail would be lighted, to which Tucker responded, “We’re not entertaining any lighting, at least yet.”
A staff report will be presented to council later this fall, with cost of the trail to be included in the 2018 capital budget.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope

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Establishment of a courthouse neighbourhood embraced by residents


Having received overwhelming response from area residents, city council unanimously endorsed the concept of a courthouse neighbourhood Monday and authorized staff to “communicate existing programs and information to community leaders.
Approximately 75 residents of the courthouse area responded to a survey distributed to all property owners and renters last November, a rate of return Justin Lawrence, director of environmental services, called “a very high percentage” in his report to council.

Continue reading

New Dalewood bridge gives city a creative opportunity


city_scope_logo-cmykIt has served the city well over its 33 year lifespan however the knackered Dalewood bridge is well past retirement.

The Ministry of Transportation supplied the single-lane Bailey bridge in 1983 as a temporary measure and the structure has major issues relating to the abutments and embankments.

A report coming to city council Tuesday outlines the preferred replacement solution: a structure consisting of two vehicle lanes and a sidewalk on the east side. So no more pausing at either end to let opposing traffic proceed.

While no final design is being put forth at this time, the report from David Jackson, manager of capital works, paints an imaginative picture of possible options.

“Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years,” writes Jackson. “With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity. Continue reading