What was old is new again: Police foot patrols in the core of St. Thomas are about ‘enhancing the value of our downtown’

city_scope_logo-cmykEarlier this month, the province announced the St. Thomas Police Service is to receive $786,925 in funding for community-based safety and policing initiatives.
That should be tempered by the fact funding is spread over three years.
A portion of the money will support an initiative to deal with a modern-day reality in the majority of communities across Ontario while the remainder will support a local program that is a throwback to policing from a bygone era.
In the first scenario, the funding will allow for a uniform officer to remain with the Mobile Outreach Support Team (MOST) to ensure a public safety presence.
As Chief Chris Herridge observed a year ago in this corner, “Our community is facing increasing social-related issues resulting in a rise in crime and a feeling of being unsafe in our downtown.
“We immediately need a ‘boots on the ground’ professional health team (mental health, medical, addictions, housing, etc.) in our downtown in partnership with the St. Thomas Police Service who will assist when public safety is a concern.
“The police require a team of experts so we can triage these health-related calls and the appropriate assistance/supports can be provided.”

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You’re elected to make a decision and move forward


She survived a bitterly fought election campaign last fall, threats to her well-being this month over the city’s snow-removal efforts and on Wednesday, Mayor Heather Jackson demonstrated in feisty fashion why she has earned the right to wear the chain of office.

Jackson appeared with Southwold Mayor Grant Jones and Central Elgin Mayor Dave Marr at the fifth annual State of the Municipalities luncheon, hosted by the St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce at St. Anne’s Centre

While her focus was firmly directed at economic development, the city’s near $300 million infrastructure deficit and cooperation with neighbouring municipalities, it was this observation from Jackson that left no doubt she will no longer tolerate foot dragging on two projects that have unnecessarily languished in the political mire — a byproduct of previous councils.
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Where’s the financial impact of new police HQ?

The new council was walked through the proposed 2015 capital budget Thursday and they will get the opportunity to put their stamp of approval on Part 1 of the spreadsheet when it comes before them Jan. 19.
Part 1 of the capital budget proposes expenditures of $24.7 million. A quick comparison to Part 1 of the 2014 capital budget reveals this is more than double the roughly $10.3 million in expenditures.
What accounts for the apparent financial running amok at city hall?
That would be $13 million for the proposed new home for the St. Thomas Police Service, for which refined plans and drawings will come before council on Jan. 19.
So, if the doomsayers vehemently opposed to construction of the new police HQ are correct in their warnings, this extravagant expense will have a significant impact on property taxes — remember the dire prediction from Lori Baldwin-Sands? — and this should show up on the funding source page of the budget.
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Trio exhibit fine form skating around park


It dropped off the radar screen more than a year ago only to surface at Monday’s council meeting. We’re talking about the long-proposed skateboard park, for which a committee was formed several years ago and which hasn’t convened since June, 2013.

Included on the committee were three members of council — aldermen Lori Baldwin-Sands, Mark Cosens and Tom Johnston — and it would appear therein lies the problem.

At least that is the opinion of Shelly Axford, one of three members of the city’s skateboard community to sit on the committee. We talked with her this week on her observations of the committee’s work.

“To my knowledge I’m still on the committee. I haven’t resigned. I don’t know what’s going on with it. The kids need something so they’re not hanging around the streets trying to figure out what to do with themselves.”

The park is supposed to be located east of the Timken Centre and that is about all that has been determined.
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Of buzzers, boycotts, barbs and boarders

The buzzer has sounded, the counter is closed and the nomination deadline has come and gone for the 2014 municipal vote.
By choosing to withdraw his aldermanic papers and instead seek to become the head of council, Mark Cosens makes it a three-way race with Cliff Barwick and Heather Jackson.
In the aldermanic race, a total of 19 are in the running thanks to a final week blitz.
Voters have the opportunity to elect seven from the following candidates: John Allen, Brett Bear, Ken Boe, Mark Burgess, Gary Clarke, Jaqueline DeLeebeeck, Rose Gibson, Walter H. Green, Tom Johnston, Jeff Kohler, Frank Lattanzio, Mike Manary, Todd Rowley, Joan Rymal, Beverly Splane, Linda Stevenson, Mark Tinlin, Phil Thomson and Steve Wookey.

Late last month, Times-Journal reporter Ben Forrest wrote a factual account of an interview he recorded with Cosens announcing his intention to seek re-election.
While several of Cosens’ comments could be considered inflammatory in nature, there was no attempt by the alderman to question the presentation of the story or the accuracy of the quotes contained within the article. Continue reading

Skateboard park info session likely to open old wounds


A public information session will be held Wednesday at the Timken Centre to unveil plans for the three potential sites for the city’s new skate park.
However, a T-J reader writes to urge one of those locations be struck from the list. Specifically, Jonas Park, which has been promoted as a skatepark venue dating back to 2003.
It is being touted along with the yet-to-be conceived Joanne Brooks Memorial Park on Inkerman Street and the Timken Centre.
Jim Collard has been a resident for more than 40 years in the Ross and Wellington street part of town that encompasses Jonas, Lydia, Verna and Barnes streets and he and his neighbours contend this quiet residential area of St. Thomas is no place to plonk down a skateboard park.
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Skateboarders doff hats in show of respect


The skateboard park may be nothing more than a memory, however the young boarders who saw the facility as a second home are not about to abandon the cause.
A group of them were in the gallery for Monday’s council meeting, but were not allowed the opportunity to have a representative present their case at that time.
The collective cold shoulder by council has prompted a rebuke in the community in the form of letters to the editor and numerous comments on the T-J website and on Facebook.
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