Spending it well on affordable housing for St. Thomas


city_scope_logo-cmykThe magnificent edifice at the corner of Talbot and Mary Streets, formally known as the Mickleborough building, has had a bit of an uncertain future over the past three years.
It was the former home of Ontario Works before the city purchased it from London developer Shmuel Farhi in March of 2017.
It dates back to the early 1900s and was designed by St. Thomas architect Neil Darrach. Its appraised value at the time of the sale was $4 million.
Under the deal, Farhi Holdings was to donate $2.3 million in exchange for a tax receipt and the city would pay the remaining $1.7 million.
The intent at the time was to partner with the Central Community Health Centre in hopes of consolidating their operations into the structure that once housed the British mainstay Marks and Spencer in the 1970s and Huston’s Fine Furniture into the 1990s.
Added to its functions this year was transforming a portion of the stately building to serve as a day shelter for the homeless.
A far cry from the home of fine furniture.

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Of Mark Twain and the London-centred school board


 city_scope_logo-cmyk“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities.” That’s an observation from David Thompson, chairman of the Near North District School Board in Ontario, gleaned from a St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce news release calling for a moratorium on school closures.
At the May 6 Ontario Chamber of Commerce convention in Sarnia, member chambers adopted a resolution “supporting a moratorium on closures and for organizations including the Chamber to be engaged by the school boards to consult economic impact.”
In St. Thomas and Elgin, the Thames Valley District School board will decided later this month on a proposal to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.

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Grant or sponsorship, nixing request the right move


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Sponsorship or grant, council made the right decision by not immediately approving a request to financially support a new Elgin Business Resource Centre and St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce awards event.
We dwelt on this last week and our municipal officials hashed it around Monday before turning thumbs down on the $5,000 call for support from chamber president Bob Hammersley, who wanted the process fast-tracked.
This is one more reason why the city should follow the lead of Elgin county council and put the hammer down on all new grant requests.
Ratepayers should not be on the hook to support various causes and events cherry-picked by council for consideration.
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Skateboard park info session likely to open old wounds


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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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A fundamental change blowing in the budget wind?


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Budget deliberations are a critical indicator of the direction city council will follow in the coming fiscal year and the sometimes quirky priorities of our municipal representatives.
After a warm-up session Thursday, council will get down to brass tacks on Monday as they tackle Part 1 of the 2012 capital budget.
Members are being asked to approved expenditures of just over $8 million, of which $2 million will be sourced through the 2012 property tax levy, the same as 2011.
In total, the requests for capital in 2012 total $22.4 million, requiring property tax supported funding of $9.5 million.
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Somebody missed the bus with this press release


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A press release from the Chamber of Commerce created an instant stir on the Times-Journal Facebook page after it was posted late Thursday afternoon.
The advisory, from the pen of Chamber CEO Bob Hammersley, “No New Year’s Bus Service?” suggested “there will likely be no free New Year’s Eve bus service in St. Thomas this year.”
A service underwritten by MADD Canada’s St. Thomas-Elgin Chapter for the past four years.
Was this confirmed with Mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman or staff at city hall, or was Hammersley jumping to conclusions?
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Former mayor seeks to light fire of desire in city hearts


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After two failed attempts to return to municipal council in St. Thomas (in 2006 and this past October), Peter Ostojic now wants to skate in the provincial arena.

Mid-week, Ostojic announced he would love to represent the city at Queen’s Park and has entered the fray to become the Progressive Conservative candidate for Elgin-Middlesex-London in this fall’s provincial vote.

 It’s a crowded field — when announcing his intention, there were six other hopefuls. That’s down to five now that Bill Fehr left in a huff, mortified that former MPP Peter North has the temerity to ask for the confidence of riding constituents in a bid to resurrect his political career.

Not one to pass on the opportunity to gain political traction, Ostojic dropped City Scope a line to pick up on where Bob McCaig left off last week in his call to action for the community to financially support St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital. Read here

To recap, civic booster McCaig checked in to advise, “I am far more concerned about the long-term damage being done to our hospital by city council’s failure to make any contribution to the hospital’s capital fund, as was promised under the mayoralty of Peter Ostojic.”
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Will pending CAO debate trigger a flip-flop frenzy?


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Mark Dec. 13 on the calendar, because it should trigger the process that will witness the return of a CAO to city hall.

The position has been vacant since 2004, when council determined Roy Main just didn’t fit into the city’s plans.

City clerk Wendell Graves would sure fit the bill now, however.

In a chat this week with Times-Journal reporter Kyle Rea, incoming mayor Heather Jackson-Chapman said she fully expected a notice of motion would come forward on that date to initiate debate on a CAO.

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The winners and losers Monday in St. Thomas


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One of the more acidic municipal election campaigns in recent memory took barely an hour to resolve once the polls closed Monday evening. Emerging as the popular winner was a jubilant Heather Jackson-Chapman who, by clinching the mayoral race, out-distanced what can only be referred to as the old boys club – Cliff Barwick seeking re-election and Al Riddell eager to launch a political career that never got off the ground.

The 2010 St. Thomas municipal vote can best be characterized as the “dump-Barwick-at-any-cost” campaign and it succeeded – however his fate was sealed nearly two months ago. More on that shortly.

For Heather, the early days in office will be a severe test of her mettle, beginning with the appointment of a finance chairman, normally filled by the top polling alderman, in this case Lori Baldwin-Sands, another winner, albeit a surprise to many. Lori’s strength is social services and she may choose to stay that course. If so, Heather will be under pressure from several quarters to fill one of the most important chairman positions at city hall.
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