Cost of remediation at 230 Talbot Street comes with no firm guarantee

city_scope_logo-cmykThe city is eager to begin remediation at 230 Talbot Street, site of the proposed “social services and housing campus” on a parcel of land purchased last year from London developer Shmuel Farhi.
The winning tender for cleanup will come to council Tuesday for approval.
And, it comes in significantly above the anticipated range of $400,000 to $600,000.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council will be asked to endorse the tender submitted by All Season Excavating at $728,819 for remediation of the large tract of land.
The work includes removal of all contaminated materials in preparation for the new social services building and construction of a new parking lot to replace the existing lot on the northwest corner of the site. Continue reading


A repeat of appalling not appealing at Walnut Manor?

city_scope_logo-cmykThis is a horrible time of year to revisit this story. But can there ever be a good time to tackle what has been described as warehousing of our most vulnerable residents?
In June of 2014, this corner profiled a disturbing situation at Walnut Manor, an independent supportive living home in St. Thomas operated by Niagara Supportive Living of Welland.
Fourteen residents in the home were served up meals described as appalling not appealing by St. Thomas lawyer Elena Dempsey.
She had become an advocate for the residents and was reaching out to the community for their help and support to turn things around at Walnut Manor.
Things had gotten so bad, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health shut the kitchen down for three days.
Four-and-a-half years later and it would appear history is repeating itself. Continue reading

No islands in these streams, just a series of HR obstacles

city_scope_logo-cmykCongratulations are in order to Elizabeth Sebestyen, confirmed this week as the Director of Social Services for St. Thomas and Elgin county.
She has been acting director since 2013 and has worked for the department since 2001.
And why did it take so long to announce the permanent appointment?
Well you won’t get any answers at city hall, because it involved a protracted labour relations tribunal dealing with a wrongful dismissal claim by former director Barbara Arbuckle, hired in 2011.
A conversation a year ago with city manager Wendell Graves revealed the following.
“I can’t say a lot but she’s (Sebestyen) still the acting director and Barbara is still on leave.” Continue reading

Can a bus ride begin the journey out of poverty?

city_scope_logo-cmykAmong the positive steps taken this year in St. Thomas to help mitigate poverty’s impact on Ontario Works recipients was the introduction in February of the Bus Pass Pilot Project.
Under this scheme, recipients seeking employment would have access to a monthly bus pass, recognizing “Access to reliable and affordable transportation is integral to a person’s ability to gain and maintain employment, to access health care, recreational, educational and social activities among other things.”
That is according to a report from Heather Sheridan, supervisor of employment and income supports, to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting.
She is asking council to continue the bus pass program and extend it further to include sole support parents and their children. Continue reading

So, this guy comes up to me and asks, ‘When is the next bus to St. Thomas?’

city_scope_logo-cmykWhile this country’s passenger train network has been picked clean to the bone like so much road kill, Toronto transportation writer and policy adviser Greg Gormick notes it is no coincidence the topic of rail travel ebbs and flows with the election tide.
His clients have included CP, CN, VIA and numerous elected officials and government transportation agencies.
One of his latest undertakings has him consulting for Oxford County to document concerns about the province’s high-speed rail (HSR) proposal linking Toronto with London and eventually Windsor.
Gormick warns HSR will further contribute to the decline of VIA passenger rail service to Woodstock, Ingersoll, Brantford, Stratford, St. Marys and other communities in the region. Continue reading

You’d expect a healthy workplace environment at the Canadian Mental Health Association, wouldn’t you?

city_scope_logo-cmykThey deal with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, but staff at the Elgin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association say they are struggling with their own unbearable stress.
And now, members of OPSEU Local 133 are breaking the silence.
Bolstered by CMHA members from Oxford, about two dozen staff took a stand outside the Centre Street office where they claim to be working in an environment of fear, intimidation and anxiety.
According to Carol Warner, OPSEU staff representative, St. Thomas employees are consistently targeted and penalized by upper management for speaking up about health, safety and other workplace concerns.
“It’s hideous, it’s a long-standing issue,” notes Warner. “I would say it’s a systemic issue. We have grievances in the docket that are, at a minimum, four or five years old. And the grievance program has flaws as well.
“If one decides to, they can influence how quickly or how slowly the grievance process unfolds.” Continue reading

Overtime and lawyers exact a price on city budget

city_scope_logo-cmykIn his six-month budget monitoring report to city council this past Monday (Sept. 18), the city’s director of financing, David Aristone, is projecting an operating deficit of $25,000 this year.
Aristone cautions, however, there are three areas in which “the city may have some exposure for over expenditures but the magnitude is not known.”
In other words, that operating deficit could balloon rather significantly.
The three areas of concern?
Let’s start with 2017 salary negotiations which would include bargaining with city firefighters. They are seeking a 24-hour shift structure and unless an amicable agreement can be reached, this one will end up in arbitration. Continue reading