High praise for first art installations at St. Thomas Elevated Park


Whether it’s art imitating life or life imitating art, the gift of a pair of “big, heavy, muscular and colourful pieces of art” will be impressive focal points at the St. Thomas Elevated Park when it officially opens Aug. 27.
The metal sculptures are the creation of artist and blacksmith Scott McKay, commissioned and donated to the park by his father Ian, a resident of Waterloo.
A model of the first installation, Fear Not The Wind, will be on display at the St. Thomas Home Show, this weekend at the Timken Centre.

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Utility merger could power an expanded vision for St. Thomas Elevated Park


city_scope_logo-cmykAs if playing home to this country’s first elevated park wasn’t high enough honour, St. Thomas could be one starting point for an ambitious trail project – an undertaking pinned to the pending merger of St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus, based out of Chatham-Kent.
Earlier this week Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, released details of what the St. Thomas Elevated Park will look like when the gate at the eastern approach swings open Aug. 27. 
When the organization acquired the former Michigan Central Railroad trestle – built in 1929 at a cost of $689,000 – the purchase included 4 km of railway right-of-way at the western end of the structure running to Lyle Road in Southwold.

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Canada’s first elevated park to open Aug. 27 in St. Thomas


While some mocked it as pie in the sky, the city’s park in the sky will officially open this summer.
Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, this week released details and renderings of what the St. Thomas Elevated Park – Canada’s first such park – will look like when it officially opens Aug. 27. Making good on a promise made last April, “We’ve got a master plan, an executive summary of it and now we’re going to unleash it on the world.”

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Last stand imminent for Alma College chapel


city_scope_logo-cmykAfter years of broken promises, neglect, vandalism and the ravages of weather, the final countdown has begun for the Alma College chapel.
Mind you little remains of the chapel — opened in 1948 and, in more caring times, known as Ella D. Bowes Chapel — save for the brick walls and a barely hanging together roof.
Friday morning, new owner Gino Reale of London was given permission by the city to demolish the chapel in which many St. Thomas and area couples were married.
He told this corner the structure was far beyond any hope of restoration and had become a serious safety hazard after several small fires and a roof courting collapse.
Final rights for the chapel could come as early as the beginning of the week.
Most frustrating in all of this is previous owner George Zubick had been issued a list of cleanup priorities by Wade Woznuk, at that time property standards officer for the city. Those included repairs to the chapel roof with an engineer “to inspect to determine extent of structural damage and required repairs.”
Those repairs were to include new asphalt roof shingles. Continue reading

Sutherland insurance policy is somewhat reassuring


city_scope_logo-cmykThe dog-and-pony show known as the Sutherland Saga returned to the courtroom Friday as city staff and legal counsel sat across from Toronto owner David McGee and his lawyer Valerie McGarry in the Elgin County Courthouse.
McGarry, by the way, was McGee’s lawyer in 2008 who successfully argued the city should not be allowed to continue with demolition of the four-storey structure constructed in 1913.
That victory, noted McGarry, “gives him (McGee) an opportunity to demonstrate that he always intended to restore and maintain and refurbish that building.”
Really.So why are ratepayers on the hook for another legal tussle that will hit them in the pocket for thousands in court costs and possible penalties owing to Schouten Excavating who submitted the lowest demolition tender in the amount of $101,135. They were expected to begin last month.
So what transpired Friday?
In airline parlance, we’re in a holding pattern. Continue reading

Greater scrutiny on city employee health care claims?


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Coincidence or symptomatic of deeper problems at city hall? Two cases of fraudulent health claims filed by a former city employee and a current member of the St. Thomas Police Service in a matter of months.
Two weeks ago in a tribunal held at city hall, Const. Aaron Fraser pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct and deceit under the Police Services Act and was demoted to second-class constable for one year with a loss of $12,500 in salary.
The charges under the Police Act stem from six fraudulent health claims for massage therapy filed electronically with Manulife, totaling $353, but never rendered.
And on Friday, a release from city police advising Amanda Graham, a former bylaw enforcement officer at the animal shelter, has been arrested and charged with one count of fraud over $5,000 and seven counts of uttering a forged document.
These charges haven’t yet been proven in court and she will make her first appearance later this month. Continue reading

Membership explosion in Sunshine Club sure to annoy


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There sure was a rush on seats inside the 2014 Sunshine Club as outlined in a report to council Monday detailing City of St. Thomas public sector salary disclosure.

The city had a total of 96 employees who earned greater than $100,000, a more than 50% increase over the 2013 total of 62.

Breaking that number down, 33 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are now included, up from 16 in 2013.

Over at the fire department, 48 employees earned $100,000 or more in 2014 as compared to 32 the year previous.

And 15 city administrators exceed that figure, an increase of one over 2013.

Topping the earnings list at city hall was CAO Wendell Graves at $172,372 ($165,900 in 2013). John Dewancker, director of environmental services earned $139,693 as compared to $132,309 the previous year and Graham Dart, director of human resources, had a salary of $127,839 in 2014 ($124,784). Continue reading