After enduring a painful three months of coronavirus cancellations, curtailments and closures, this has been an extraordinary week for positive, time-to-move-forward announcements.
Let’s begin with Monday’s (June 8) meeting where council revisited its May 19 split decision to leave the tables empty this summer at the Horton Market.
Five members of council – Mayor Joe Preston and councillors Jeff Kohler, Gary Clarke, Joan Rymal and Mark Tinlin – reconsidered their previous non-support which resulted in a unanimous vote to proceed with opening the popular market on June 20.
The market board of directors submitted a revised plan of operation with enhanced COVID-19 restrictions which assured all members of council the health and safety of both vendors and customers would be a top priority.
My, what a difference a few days make in the life of the coronavirus outbreak. From little in the way of inconvenience to scores of cancellations, long lineups in grocery outlets and the mysterious disappearance of toilet paper from many shelves.
To get a sense of the state of preparedness at city hall, we talked with city manager Wendell Graves earlier this week.
He advised, “Last night (Monday) at city council, I advised them that our management team met with the Director of Public Health (Dr. Joyce Lock) to review what’s happening in the area and we are also upgrading our internal business continuity plans.”
To keep on top of the spread of the coronavirus, Graves noted the management team will likely be meeting on a weekly basis.
“We’re meeting quite regularly on it now,” advised Graves, “just to make sure that we’ve got a course of action in place.”
More investment is needed in infrastructure; a number of city assets could be pared; there is a call from the treasurer to address user fees, some of which are too low; and be prepared for several rounds of employee bargaining.
That’s the St. Thomas financial picture for the coming year.
With a minimum amount of fuss – read little spirited debate – and the complete absence of pencil sharpening, council this week approved a draft of the city’s 2020 budget.
Members were content to rubber-stamp the budget which will see a 2.43 per cent increase in the municipal property tax levy next year.
That’s dependant on the results of contract bargaining on several fronts at city hall. More on that momentarily.
The undertaking has been characterized as “a once in 100-year opportunity to create something inspiring.”
The project in question is the new, graceful Dalewood Bridge replacing the Bailey bridge installed at Dalewood Dam as a temporary structure in 1983 at a cost of $35,000.
That long-in-the-tooth span was finally deemed unsafe in November of 2017 and closed permanently, forcing many city residents to alter their travel patterns.
In a report to council in December of the previous year, the city’s manager of capital works David Jackson noted, “Bridges remain visible pieces of the community for over 100 years. With some creative design and cost effective engineering they can become icons that contribute towards community identity.”
And, that is exactly what is now spanning the water at Dalewood Dam. Continue reading
It was a budget body slam last night (Dec. 18) in the council chamber at city hall. A bloc of five councillors sent a clear message to Mayor Heather Jackson as to who is behind the wheel on budget deliberations. Or at least the community grant portion of the 2018 city budget.
Councillors Steve Wookey, Joan Rymal, Mark Burgess, Mark Tinlin and Gary Clarke voted to adopt the budget as is. The 2018 financial roadmap for the city included a $60,000 cap on community grants to any one group or organization.
Jackson is opposed to a grant cap and therefore was in opposition to approving the budget as is.
She did a little politicking of her own by asking for a recorded vote so those associated with the Talbot Teen Centre (TTC) and St. Thomas Elgin Public Art Centre – two pet projects – would be well aware of her sympathy. Continue reading