More investment is needed in infrastructure; a number of city assets could be pared; there is a call from the treasurer to address user fees, some of which are too low; and be prepared for several rounds of employee bargaining.
That’s the St. Thomas financial picture for the coming year.
With a minimum amount of fuss – read little spirited debate – and the complete absence of pencil sharpening, council this week approved a draft of the city’s 2020 budget.
Members were content to rubber-stamp the budget which will see a 2.43 per cent increase in the municipal property tax levy next year.
That’s dependant on the results of contract bargaining on several fronts at city hall. More on that momentarily.
It was a three-year battle to save a couple of rural schools in Elgin, but in the end, it may have been a last-minute letter of clarification that sealed the deal.
Tuesday evening (Nov. 26) Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) trustees voted overwhelmingly in favour of rescinding a motion to shutter New Sarum and Springfield public schools next year.
The motion had initially been introduced in October by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock, with the support of fellow area trustee Bruce Smith.
After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools.
A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school.
Several trustees had opposed Ruddock’s motion in the belief such a move could jeopardize the business case for the construction of a new school in Belmont.
Part 1 of this story can be found here.
City Scope has spent almost five years documenting the shortcomings at Walnut Manor in St. Thomas, operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
From meals described as appalling to bare bones maintenance and housekeeping to, most recently, an infestation of bed bugs.
Now you can add owner Vishal Chityal’s refusal to add a sprinkler system to the ageing facility which has housed upward of a dozen residents at any one time.
In the second part of our examination into fire safety at facilities housing the city’s most vulnerable individuals, we talk with St. Thomas Chief Fire Prevention Officer Bill Todd about Walnut Manor and Elizabeth Sebestyen, St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services director, about the options available for the city to protect residents of these unsprinklered group homes. Continue reading
On any given night, anywhere from a dozen to 18 of the city’s most vulnerable citizens lay down their heads in bed bug infested rooms at a dilapidated facility wanting for even the most basic of housekeeping efforts.
Their daily menu, as aptly described by lawyer advocate Elena Dempsey, is appalling not appealing.
And now, we find out these residents of Walnut Manor will not even benefit from the simple comfort of knowing their long-past-the-best-before-date hovel will be equipped with a life-saving sprinkler system.
Why is it other residential care facilities in St. Thomas are mandated to install sprinkler systems by the end of the year and yet this independent supportive living home operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland is exempt from this regulation?
Why is it, once again, the residents of Walnut Manor fall through the cracks?
For the first time in St. Thomas, advance polling for the Oct. 22 vote was available via internet and telephone. However, the hoped-for technological turnaround in voter turnout doesn’t turn up in the numbers.
That’s according to a report presented to council at Monday’s (Nov. 5) reference committee meeting compiled by city clerk Maria Konefal.
It’s a comprehensive break-out of the balloting and there are numerous surprises, and the data may pave the way for further electronic advances in the 2022 municipal election.
Tim Hedden, who was unsuccessful in his bid to win a councillor seat nailed it with his observation, “Curious to see if it drives voter turnout up or just made it more convenient for those that already vote.”
In an interview this week, Konefal noted “The thing I found interesting is we didn’t have too much of a change in the percentage turnout. But, of the people who voted, 44 percent of them voted electronically. Most of that was by internet.”
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.”
While talks continue, no settlement has been reached between OPSEU Local 152, representing 22 health care professionals and Closing the Gap in St. Thomas. Their contract expired on March 31 of last year.
And, those employees could be off the job in a week’s time.
Closing the Gap is a healthcare provider offering services in homes, schools, workplaces, long-term care homes, hospitals, and clinics across Ontario.
On May 2, a final offer from the employer was presented to OPSEU members who unanimously turned down the deal.
The outstanding issue remains wages, with Closing the Gap earning, on average, $165 per client visit while paying their employees $46 to $48 per visit, some of those lasting almost two hours. Continue reading