Security cameras will ensure a vibrant downtown as ‘a canvas for economic development’


city_scope_logo-cmykVideo surveillance will soon be keeping a watchful eye over the city’s downtown core. At Tuesday’s (May 19) meeting, members of council will be asked to endorse Phase 1 of a project that will see the installation of eight CCTV cameras along a two-kilometre stretch of Talbot Street, from CASO Crossing to Queen Street.
The locations were selected based on 2018/19 crime mapping data and motor vehicle collision reporting information.
In a report to council from city police, it is noted the CCTV program “is a proactive, local solution modelled on successful networks in other municipalities to enhance community well-being and assist the St. Thomas Police Service with solving crime.”
Right now when a crime is committed downtown, police need to canvass businesses to see if they have surveillance footage as evidence.

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‘We’ve been able to bend the curve, but we’re not out of the woods yet’


city_scope_logo-cmykThey are not included in the daily tally issued by health units across the province – including Southwestern Public Health in this area – and yet these individuals have been victimized and their lives put on hold by the coronavirus.
And last week’s release of the framework to be adhered to by hospitals is a welcome ray of hope for those whose elective surgeries and procedures also fell victim to COVID-19.
Although it may still be several weeks before ramping up the numbers, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron says the preparatory work is underway.
Speaking with him yesterday (Friday), Biron advised the immediate task is to work with other hospitals in the region to create a joint plan so that all hospitals are working “in a lockstep approach.”
He adds, “There is a lot of complexity involved in that because there is a pandemic we have to account for.

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Mayor Preston on grants policy: ‘At no time did anybody come up to me and say would you please give away more of my money’


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile attempting to avoid treading water any longer on a definitive grant process, at Monday’s reference committee meeting, Mayor Joe Preston admitted he is “bothered” by the current process or lack thereof.
Obviously frustrated he noted, “a disproportionate amount of time has been spent discussing grants.”
To move along the dialogue, Preston announced the formation of a committee with at least a couple of council members on board in order to “write a proposal council can agree with . . . and bring this back in quickly.”
Curious as to the direction he envisions, we chatted with the mayor Tuesday to allow him to elaborate.
“I think we touched on the outer edges of what grants should look like in our community last night. What we have to decide is where are we going to land in the middle?
“I’m the same as anybody else. I don’t think we should go without an art centre. But, should the art centre be getting a set amount every year in perpetuity as part of their funding?
“I don’t know. We just have to decide those things.”

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Groups think we have a process in place: Sorting out the community grants boondoggle in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykThe item on Monday’s reference committee agenda notes, “The members will discuss the council grants process.”
Trouble is, this council and previous editions have not had a clearly defined method of distributing funding to community groups and organizations.
In particular, the last two rounds of funds disbursement have been an embarrassing undertaking, to put it mildly.
In the past, this has been a totally unstructured affair with little in the way of guidelines to follow.
The overarching target – seldom adhered to – has been one-half per cent of the general tax levy or in the $250,000 range.
Last year’s determination of who gets what was likened in this corner to a “Saturday morning session at the auction house.”
The best takeaway was Coun. Gary Clarke’s observation, “Groups think we have a process in place.”

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Pilot project would see St. Thomas Transit buses venture beyond city limits


city_scope_logo-cmykHopping on a bus bound for London may soon be a reality for St. Thomas and Elgin county residents.
The city is about to pitch a pilot project to the province seeking funding support for regional transit connectivity for residents of St. Thomas, Central Elgin, Southwold, Malahide and Aylmer.
The undertaking was a recommendation of the Transit Strategic Plan presented to city council a month ago, although the pilot project would go beyond the one-year test suggested in that report.
As outlined Monday (Dec. 16) by Mayor Joe Preston at the reference committee meeting, the three-year undertaking would see a Monday through Sunday service operating from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The bus would leave St. Thomas on the hour for each trip, although Preston stressed these times and hours of operation could be adjusted.

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Doling out St. Thomas grant money: the city’s own cap-and-trade program?


city_scope_logo-cmykCity council’s reference committee meetings – held immediately prior to the regularly scheduled council sittings – tend to be straight forward, down-to-business sessions with an abundance of information and plenty of questions.
While very informative, they can be a tad on the dry side.
Well, a dramatic change could be in order for Monday’s meeting (Feb. 11) which begins at 4:30 p.m. and will see members determine how to dole out community grants for the year.
In the past, this has been a totally unstructured affair with little in the way of guidelines to follow.
The overarching target – seldom adhered to – has been one-half per cent of the general tax levy or in the $250,000 range.
Last year, even with an attempt to pare back some of the requests, the city still awarded almost $330,000 in grants.
For 2019, council has received funding asks from 18 groups or organizations seeking a total of $455,600.
Some tough decisions are in order Monday.

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Thirty years on and Steve Peters is ‘itching to go’


city_scope_logo-cmykThree decades after his introduction to municipal politics in St. Thomas, Steve Peters is returning to the council chambers at city hall.
And he’s taking his place at the horseshoe with an overwhelming mandate from city voters.
Of the 10,259 residents who cast their ballot in the Oct. 22 municipal vote, 8,197 indicated they wanted the former city mayor and Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP back representing their interests.
This past spring, toying with the idea of a return to where it all began, Peters left no doubt as to his intention.
“Standing here (inside his home) I can see the city hall tower and my focus is on that.”
Several days after a resounding vote of confidence, Peters confessed “I have to admit I’m excited that interest in the community is still there. I’m itching to go.
“I’m still humbled by it and pinch myself because a lot of people chose to fill in the round mark beside me.”

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A crowded table for debate over mobile food vendors in Port Stanley


Mobile food vendors would set up for the day in Port Stanley and then leave town at night without any investment in the community.
Not the case at all, insisted an operator of a vehicle in question. “We’re not invading the territory, we’re here to complement existing restaurants.”
Such was the scope of argument Monday night (March 27) at a public meeting held to gather input from both sides of the table on whether to allow mobile food vendors in  Port Stanley. The one-hour dialogue preceded the regular meeting of Central Elgin municipal council.

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Port Stanley harbour: “We are in total control of this” – Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr at the State of the Municipalities lunch


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We’re going to start off with our Belmont Library. We started this actually the previous year (2015) and finished up in 2016 with the help of the county. It is now totally accessible . . . and this enables us to continue on a great library . . . and if Belmont is lucky enough to get a school, it certainly is going to help them.
With our Lynhurst projects, engineering is finished and it’s mainly to do storm drainage and new roads. The roads are in terrible shape in that particular area, this is the old Lynhurst. We had hoped we were going to be doing it starting the construction this year, but after going through budget and reviewing our priorities, and we know this is going to be a three-year project, we decided we needed to do some other things because of health and safety . . . so the tenders will go out hopefully in the fall so they can start construction early January in 2018.
This is a big thing we’re doing and has to do with healthy communities. That’s our Master Trail Plan. We’ve asked people to send in their requests, information and their ideas on how we can improve our trails throughout the municipality.  Now for Central Elgin, that means anywhere from Belmont, heading all around St. Thomas, heading south through Union and Sparta and ending up in Port Stanley.