Lots of red ink, but rest assured nothing will be written off


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With municipal councils in St. Thomas and Chatham-Kent having approved the merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, all that is required is the go-ahead from the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), likely to happen late this year with a target merger date of Jan. 1, 2018.
Oh, and there is that prickly matter of a not insignificant amount of long-term debt run up by Ascent Group, St. Thomas Energy’s parent – city treasurer David Aristone refers to it as bank debt – and in excess of $5 million owed the municipality for the collection of water bills dating back to at least 2014.
It’s not a subject open to much in the way of discussion by either Aristone or St. Thomas Energy acting CEO Rob Kent. 

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‘It just sits there.’ Is the Sutherland Press building a monument to something or an over-sized bird house?


city_scope_logo-cmykWhen we last looked in on the Sutherland Saga, one question remained unanswered. Is the four-storey structure looming over the downtown core unsafe?
After a day-long hearing Friday at the Elgin County Courthouse – in which lawyer Valerie M’Garry, representing owner David McGee, and John Sanders, representing the city’s chief building official Chris Peck, parried over the definition of unsafe and is there a definition of a safe structure – little headway was made in what has become a dizzying debate over semantics.
And, as was the case on the opening day of the hearing a week ago, it was Justice Peter Hockin who dominated proceedings. Pondering aloud at one point, “What if this place is not insurable from a liability point of view?”
To backtrack for a moment, the purpose of the two-day hearing is to get down to business and deal with the decision of a three-member court of appeal panel handed down last month in which it ruled in the city’s favour, advising a lower court erred in its determination last September that a notice issued in March of 2016 warning of demolition of the four-storey structure for failure to comply with a previous work order was null and void.

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Retirement payouts to firefighters enough to make you sick


city_scope_logo-cmykYou have to look very, very carefully to find this gem in last Monday’s council agenda.
We’ll help you out. It’s on Page 65. A warning from the city’s director of finance, David Aristone.
“The various reserve balance are adequate in the short term,” advised Aristone in his 2016 year-end update to council. “However, for the longer term, the city is financially exposed in the following areas.
Aristone lists four areas with the final being “future retirement payouts for the fire department.”
No amount is listed, but we confirmed with human resources director Graham Dart the amount at the end of 2016 was approximately $1.3 million.
A tidy sum, that. And what is the $1.3 million earmarked for?

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City to assume ownership of Lake Margaret . . . and those grass-gobbling geese


The process and implications of transferring ownership of Lake Margaret and associated lands to the city were outlined to residents of the lakeside subdivision in attendance Monday at city council’s reference committee meeting.
The update of the Lake Margaret Management Plan by city staff was deemed “a phenomenal presentation,” by one shoreline resident who added the process “restores a lot of our faith.”

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The reeds have got to go and the ramps are taken care of


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It was a week of R and R over in the Lake Margaret area of town – as in reeds and ramps.
Seems things can move pretty quickly when dealing with the residents who live on the shore of the newest Great Lake.
Council wasted no time Monday in directing city staff to prepare a report on how to deal with invasive weeds – Phragmites australis – a perennial grass which is burgeoning out of control around Lake Margaret faster than senators’ expenses.
Parks and rec director Ross Tucker advised council he had met with Janice Gilbert – a wetlands ecologist who has been tagged Ontario’s leading authority on Phragmites australis – and a management plan will be in the works.
Tucker cautioned it could take three years or longer to win the war on weeds. What he didn’t touch on was the cost of doing battle with the fast-spreading foe.
But hold on a sec. Isn’t Lake Margaret the domain of Doug Tarry Custom Homes? Should the city be committing untold funds to deal with this pesky situation?
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