Can a local fix result in ‘a perfect case’ fire scenario at a pair of St. Thomas homes?


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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

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Covering the bases so Walnut Manor residents don’t fall through the cracks . . . again


city_scope_logo-cmykOn 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?
Continue reading

Advance web vote in St. Thomas fails to turnaround voter turnout


city_scope_logo-cmykFor 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.”

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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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They have yet to close the gap, but talks continue in an effort to avert a strike in St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykWhile 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

Will the city advocate for its most vulnerable citizens?


city_scope_logo-cmykLast month, we noted the city is looking at a bylaw to deal with non-licensed residential care homes in St. Thomas. The move is prompted, in part, by the situation at Walnut Manor, operated by Niagara Supportive Living out of Welland.
Well, a report from Tim Welch Consulting out of Cambridge – which undertook the city’s 10-year housing and homelessness plan – is before council Monday (June 11) and in it is a section dealing with informal residential care facilities (RCF) like Walnut Manor.
These homes “provide supportive housing to non-senior individuals who require assistance for daily activities due to physical disabilities, mental health and addictions challenges,” as defined in the Welch report.
“Level of supports varies depending on individual need but are most commonly in the form of meals, administration of medicine, bathing, supervision etc.,” the report continues. Continue reading

Will municipal property taxpayers be on the hook for those election promises? Plenty of silence from the three major parties on that.


city_scope_logo-cmykWith the provincial vote less than two weeks away, the leaders of the three main parties have promised billions of dollars in goodies to entice voters.
Trouble is, there is a real lack of detail forthcoming on how these enticements will be funded.
As a ratepayer, that should be a concern for you and when considering which candidate will receive your vote, ask them first who is picking up the tab.
As Lynn Dollin, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, correctly notes, “The provincial government dictates and regulates municipal services. At the same time, municipal governments deliver and help fund key provincial programs, like social housing and child care. Our fates are deeply intertwined.” Continue reading