What’s in a name? In this case, $2.7 million


city_scope_logo-cmykThe city this week locked in place two more pieces of the Talbot Street West redevelopment puzzle with announcement of the purchase of two properties from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The acquisitions are the Mickleborough Building at 423 Talbot Street – the home of Ontario Works since 2000 – and a parcel of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and stretching south to Centre Street.
While a conditional offer was announced last April the delay, according to city manager Wendell Graves, revolved around environmental issues.
“We have done due diligence over and above so we know exactly what we are facing,” stressed Graves. “In our approved city budget this year we have funds allocated there to begin some cleanup. Because we are looking to use pieces of that site for residential, under the Ministry of the Environment regs, that is the highest order of cleanup that will be required.”

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Bankruptcy an undesirable fare at Cox Cabs


city_scope_logo-cmykAn independent player in the movement of people and parcels around St. Thomas and environs since 1944, taxis branded as Cox Cabs picked up their last fare early this year.
A victim of a market re-brand or idled by bankruptcy?
The former, insists owner Jamie Donnelly, who purchased Cox Cabs from the late Terry Banghart in 2011. Banghart took part ownership of the company in 1993 and sole ownership in 2003. He began as a driver with the firm in 1973.
“We started re-branding about three months ago and we have completed it now,” Donnelly told City Scope recently.

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A big ‘if’ looming over proposed west end community hub


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the announcement last April the city has extended a conditional offer to London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre Street.

The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot Street. The possibility also exists the site could be used for affordable housing units.

In the intervening months, the city has undertaken due diligence. Time is becoming a factor, however, as the lease on the Mickleborough building at 423 Talbot Street current home of Ontario Works and also owned by Farhi, expires later this year.

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Social housing director not at home at city hall


city_scope_logo-cmykShe beat out 11 other candidates for the job of director at Ontario Works back in February of 2011, so where is Barbara Arbuckle today?
The question was prompted by an email sent our way.
“She was there for a couple of months then disappeared,” writes a curious reader. “It seems to be quite a mystery in the department and out as to whatever happened with her.”
Yes, it is a mystery as her name still appears online in the city’s staff directory. However when you call her phone extension the line goes dead.
A call to city manager Wendell Graves on Friday resulted in a guarded response. Continue reading

City to further invest in west end


The city’s long-suffering west end received a significant shot in the arm Wednesday – the second life line extended to the western gateway this year.
City manager Wendell Graves announced the municipality has extended a conditional offer to London developer Shmuel Farhi to purchase a vacant plot of land on the south side of Talbot St., between William and Queen streets, and extending to Centre St.
The site is being considered for development of a community hub to house the Ontario Works department and the Central Community Health Centre, both currently occupying office space along the north side of Talbot St. Continue reading

St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital CEO bowing out on a high note


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No backroom wheeling and dealing this time around. When his five-year contract expires in October, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins is holding true to his word.
No contract extension – step aside and make way for a new hand at the helm.
“As I announced five years ago when we negotiated the contract, that would be my last and we’re sticking to the plan,” Collins insisted.
Not that he is necessarily bidding farewell to the world he loves.
In a lengthy conversation earlier this month, Collins spoke frankly of the future.
“I think I still have something to offer in health care. I have a great passion for this work. Who knows what opportunity will present itself. Leave the options open.”
And what words of wisdom will he pass on to the incoming CEO?
“The first thing I would say is they are very fortunate to come into a great community that has tremendous generosity. And they’ve shown it not to just this hospital, but to a lot of other agencies.

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Health unit ‘reverses and changes’ will impact ratepayers, warns London developer


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We opened up City Scope seven days ago by suggesting the ball was in the court of London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The comment was in reference to the decision by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health to seek new digs, not located on property owned by Farhi in the city’s west end.
Well, Farhi has rifled the ball back into this corner in convincing fashion.
He is most upset at a comment we made as to where the allegiance of members of council lie.
Specifically, my observation “any dissenting voice on city council (on a minor zoning variation needed by Family and Children’s of St. Thomas and Elgin to move into the 99 Edward St. location that is the current home of the health unit) would certainly be based on allegiance to Farhi . . . rather than to city ratepayers.
That prompted a terse email from Farhi, who asserts he had a deal in place with the health unit for his Talbot Street property.

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