For the past four years, the St. Thomas Fire Department has faced the equivalent of an internal multi-alarm blaze. And, it is to be hoped with the announcement this week of Kyle Smith’s promotion to deputy fire chief that the final embers of controversy have been suppressed. You have to delve back to August of 2017 and the death of popular fire chief Rob Broadbent to discover the source of the flames of discontent. The decision was made somewhere in the corridors of city hall to look elsewhere for a replacement for the outgoing, community-minded Broadbent. This is despite a strong candidate in Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod who, according to some sources, was not even granted an interview. We’ll wend our way back to Ormerod shortly. So the search for a new chief ended in Chatham-Kent where the deputy chief in that municipality, Bob Davidson was deemed the ideal replacement. Davidson arrived in St. Thomas in January of 2018 only to abruptly tender his resignation in July 2021.
The question begs an answer.
What exactly is going on with the city’s fire department?
We are now working on the third St. Thomas fire chief in under a year, what gives?
First, it was Bob Davidson, who came on board in January of 2018, after serving as deputy fire chief in Chatham-Kent.
Well, he served until July of last year when it was announced he abruptly retired.
Or did he?
Was he pressured into leaving?
Remember, the St. Thomas Professional Firefighters’ Association was more than a little upset when Davidson was brought aboard after the death of popular fire chief Rob Broadbent in August of 2017.
The decision was made at city hall to hire a chief externally, rather than from within the department with then Deputy Fire Chief Ray Ormerod considered a strong candidate.
Word has it Ormerod was not even granted an interview.
Councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Joe Preston and city manager Wendell Graves this past Monday. Push forward with the construction of an 88-space downtown childcare centre in an expedient fashion. Preston responded as he has in the past, by deflecting. In his report to council, Graves recommended retendering the project this fall with construction to be completed by the end of next year. The reason for the delay in going out to tender, advised Graves, is an increase in costs in the neighbourhood of $300,000 when the project was tendered last month. Putting the cost estimate in the $4.3 million range whereas just over $4 million has been budgeted for the badly needed childcare facility to be located on St. Catharine Street. “Childcare spaces in our community are desperately needed,” reminded Coun. Lori Baldwin-Sands, “and I believe once we start coming out of COVID a little more rapidly, the people who are going to be requiring the service of daycare is going to be growing exponentially.”
Residents of St. Thomas and Elgin are being “shortchanged” on physiotherapy services, charges Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative MPP Jeff Yurek. He stood up in the Ontario Legislature this week to question the Kathleen Wynne government on the closing of MobilityFit Physiotherapy in St. Thomas, one of only two such services in the city funded through OHIP. Yurek alleges both the Southwest Local Health Integration Network (SW LHIN) and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care have “refused to act on the impending loss of service.” Yurek added, “When contacted for a status update, both the SW LHIN and ministry responded with the same talking points. Neither would state whether or not the clinic is closing.” Continue reading →
While the owner and his lawyer remain ominously quiet, it is onward and upward – or maybe that should be downward in this case – as the city stays the course on a process that will ultimately result in demolition of the Sutherland Press building. In a conversation Friday with city manager Wendell Graves, he advised a report should come to council for the Sept. 18th meeting dealing with demolition tenders. “The tenders are due next week,” confirmed Graves. “There was a site meeting (this past week) with numerous contractors. It seems like there is a fair bit of interest from contractors who showed up for the site meeting.” Should council approve the winning tender bid, would demolition begin shortly afterward? Continue reading →
As debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades. The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading →
St. Thomas Fire Chief, Rob Broadbent, died Monday (Aug. 28) after a brief battle with kidney cancer at age 56.
Broadbent had been on sick leave from the department for much of the summer.
He was born in St. Thomas and served with the fire department for 32 years, including fire chief since 2010.
St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson paid tribute to Broadbent, and his leadership role with the service.
“The entire City family is devastated by the loss of a tremendous leader and a strategic director of our Fire Service. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Chief’s wife Deb and his entire family.”
Broadbent will be remembered in this corner for his refreshing sense of humour, his love of running, his eagerness to work with the media, his invitations to join firefighters in training sessions and demonstrations and his overall concern for the safety and well-being of those who served – both past and present – in the city’s fire service.
Full obit and funeral arrangements can be found here
An investment in “the next step in tools” and a consolidation of vehicles in the fleet will allow firefighters to “deliver a better service to the community,” advises St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent. Delivery of next generation portable extrication tools last week and city council’s authorization Monday to purchase a new rescue vehicle gives his crews a capability not experienced in the past, adds Broadbent. Continue reading →
The Christmas of 1955 was shaping up to be a little on the lean side, recalled JoAnne De Wilde on Tuesday morning at the main fire hall in St. Thomas. She had written down her recollection of what would, instead, become a memorable Christmas morning at the family home in Fingal and presented the note to St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent. Continue reading →