City of St. Thomas named in $7.8 million lawsuit over decision to wind down Ascent Renewables


city_scope_logo-cmykThe recent merger of Ascent/St. Thomas Energy and Entegrus Powerlines appears to have done little to unplug the city from controversial business decisions previously undertaken by the utility.
As a case in point, on Monday (Oct. 15), the city was named in a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
The City of St. Thomas, Ascent Renewables, Ascent Group Inc, Ascent Energy Services and a numbered company, 2154310 Ontario Inc., are being sued for general damages in the amount of $7,850,000 by a numbered company, 1787868, operating as Focus Group based in London.
The statement of claim was filed at the Elgin County Courthouse.
All of the defendants are ultimately owned and controlled by the city.
According to the claim, nearly 20 years ago the city undertook an initiative identified as “Partners in Power.” Through its ownership and funding provided by St. Thomas Energy Inc., the city created a series of corporations to allow it to attempt to capitalize on growth opportunities and become more involved in the growing renewable energy sector.
These corporations included Ascent Energy Services Inc. (formerly known as St. Thomas Energy Services Inc., STESI) and Ascent Group Inc. (formerly known as St. Thomas Holding Inc., STHI). These companies operated under the name Ascent Group, with all shares controlled by the city.

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Facade replication . . . the critical consideration in Alma property development


city_scope_logo-cmykA 2010 Ontario Municipal Board decision requiring any development on the Alma College property at 96 Moore Street must include “a faithful and accurate replication” of the front facade has polarized the community at large and the active membership of the Alma College International Alumnae Association.
Will it likewise divide members of council on Monday (Sept. 17) when they address the issue of approaching the OMB to rescind the replication condition for development.
The OMB order was registered on the Alma College property Sept. 9, 2010. It was registered by solicitors on behalf of the city and has been in effect for the past eight years.
On the matter of replication, the 44-page decision states, “Any development or re-development of the subject property that is permitted by present or future zoning regulations, shall include a faithful and accurate replication of the portions of the front facade of the Alma College building, which have been demolished, in a location identified by the Schedules to this Order. The replication shall include but not be limited to: doors, color of brick, roof line, and sight lines to a minimum horizontal depth of three meters from the front wall of the new building.” Continue reading

Are we being led down the wrong rabbit path on utility marriage? Or, how to distinguish a merger from a fire sale.


city_scope_logo-cmykDid you check out the notice in your latest St. Thomas Energy bill? Seems like the utility merger with Entegrus out of Chatham-Kent is moving toward consummation early in the new year, with the new entity to be known as Entegrus Powerlines.
I guess when you only have a 20 per cent piece of the pie you don’t have any say in naming the beast.
And by coincidence, the merger is the subject of a report from city manager Wendell Graves on Monday’s council agenda.
It’s chock full of legalese and ratepayers have the right to a clear explanation of what is about to transpire on the eve of the merger.
More important, what are the long-term financial implications because this appears to be less a merger and more a fire sale.
So, we chatted with Graves on Friday as to what members of council are being asked to vote on as our elected representatives. Continue reading

Nothing says summer like a circus under the big top


city_scope_logo-cmykThere’s no denying he’s chuffed an authentic, European-style circus will entertain at a dozen performances this summer in St. Thomas. But what really has Sean Dyke pumped is the big top tent under which it will perform.
Massive may be a more apt descriptor. The tent is 16,000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2,000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.
Now those are numbers the general manager over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation can really sink this teeth into. A tent with those dimensions shouts possibilities.
Of course the touring Canadian-Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts” – will occupy the Railway City Big Top for two weekends in August, that’s a done deal.

The big top is big news


For time immemorial, it was one of the rites of summer . . . the circus is coming to town.

While the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus may be folding its big top this May after 146 years, St. Thomas will be home to its very own big top this summer.

circusjpgIn August, St. Thomas will play host to an authentic European-style circus – the Canadian Swiss Dream Circus – billed on its website as “incredible displays of acrobatic, balance, aerial stunts and thrilling acts, the cast of the Canadian Swiss Dream Circus is a show that audiences won’t want to miss.”

Artistic director Marco Baumgartner invites audiences to “Catch the high-spirited and pulse-racing thrills by the most famous artists under our Big Top. Never before has such an amazing cast of this calibre been seen in Canada.”

Exact dates and ticket prices will be announced shortly for the circus under the big top to be held adjacent to the Elgin County Railway Museum.

big-topMassive may be a more appropriate description. The tent is 16,0000 square feet in size, holds in excess 0f 2.000 in grandstand seating and 1,000 for catered events. The stage measures 1,260 square feet.

Ever wanted to hold your own event under the big top? Well it will be available from July 15 to October 15 for groups and special events such as concerts, weddings, corporate functions, trade shows and the like.

The undertaking is a joint venture between the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation and Railway City Tourism, with $25,000 in financial support from the Ontario government.

For more information, visit railwaycitybigtop.com.

The spirit of Jumbo surely will be brought back to life under the big top this summer.

 

A bold step forward in tourism promotion for St. Thomas


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The city has been relatively coy of late on whether it will continue its participation – and to what extent – in Elgin county’s tourism program.
In 2013, the city’s share of the tourism budget is almost $122,000 and more than once in the last couple of years there have been suggestions the city go it alone in the marketing and promotion of tourist-related opportunities.
Well the wraps are about to be thrown off the new tourism model at Monday’s council meeting.
CAO Wendell Graves suggests with an upcoming strategic review of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation, it would make sense to deal with many of the tourism-related ventures as economic development opportunities.
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Questions need to be asked about hospital’s $13 million ask


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The redevelopment undertaking at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital was re-scoped earlier this year by the Dalton McGuinty government. However the hospital doesn’t appear to have re-scoped its financial expectations from the city/county/ratepayers.
The original capital redevelopment project came with a price tag estimated at $106 million, with a local commitment of 10% or roughly $11 million (although the hospital was seeking $13 million from the city/county/community).
The hospital board of governors has acknowledged – via a letter dated April 4, 2012 from board chairman Bruce Babcock to health minister Deb Matthews – the project cost has been reduced to $45 million.
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