From the promise of a downtown fibre optic network to assurance the St. Thomas office of Entegrus is under no threat of closure, the future is one of exceptional service, according to the top brass at the merged utility.
The trio of heavyweights – including president and CEO Jim Hogan – appeared before council at Monday’s (March 18) reference committee meeting to update members as the one-year anniversary of the St. Thomas Energy/Entegrus merger approaches on April 1.
Their message was one of corporate goodwill. Everything’s going to be fine, Jack. The kind of pat-on-the-head pep talk you get when your share of the pie is only 20.6 per cent.
And, nary a word on why the city received such a minority share when it serves 30 per cent of the total 59,000 customer base.
But more on that financial skeleton in the closet in a moment.
Thirteen months after city council was apprised of plans to revitalize the Alma College property, members are being asked Monday (March 18) to endorse a heritage easement agreement with the developer, Patriot Properties.
If approved by council, the motion would – according to a report from city manager Wendell Graves – “direct staff and the city’s solicitor to undertake the required administrative processes and make application to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) to remove the requirement of the existing 2008 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) order that any development or redevelopment of 96 Moore Street include a faithful replication of the north façade of the former Alma College building.”
Should the LPAT authorize such an action, the heritage easement agreement would replace the OMB order on the land title. Continue reading
His guest speaker engagement March 7 in St. Thomas was far from a routine outing.
In fact, his appearance Thursday morning at the St. Thomas Seniors Centre, proved a humbling experience for Globe and Mail columnist and award-winning author Andre Picard.
For the first time in the 14-year history of the Women’s Breakfast for Everyone, the 200 or so in attendance – including many high school students – would digest the thoughts and opinions of a man at the Violence Against Women, Services Elgin County fundraiser.
His appearance was equally compelling in the fact, as the first male speaker, he addressed the issue of sexual and domestic violence inflicted upon women by men.
And, as so often is the case, if anything goes wrong, it is the woman who shoulders the burden of blame. Continue reading
Following a year that saw a record number of reportable incidents and operating at minimal staffing levels, the city’s police chief is undertaking an innovative approach to maintaining the overall safety of St. Thomas residents.
That means putting more COP’s on the street.
Although, that’s not what you think and, no, the police budget is not going to absorb a beating.
The COP’s, in this case, are Citizens on Patrol.
The program – to be launched later this spring – is modelled after an existing undertaking in Brantford which provides “a visible presence in the community while fostering partnerships with Brantford Police Services, local businesses and residential areas, to identify and expand opportunities to deter criminal activity and reduce crime,” according to the service website.
The COP volunteers – more than 100 now in the program – act as goodwill ambassadors who “foster positive contact with members of the community. COP’s will act as non-confrontational observers and report suspicious behaviour.”
Are we in or out?
At Monday’s council meeting (Jan. 14), members will determine the pathway St. Thomas will take with regard to hosting cannabis retail outlets. The city has until Jan. 22 to notify the province of the direction it will pursue.
In his report to council, city manager Wendell Graves is recommending the city opt in, but reminds mayor and councillors the municipality will have little say with regard to regulating the stores, while issues related to public health and law enforcement “will fall within the municipal domain.”
The province will provide funding to assist communities to assist in those two areas.
Graves recommends opting in based on feedback from city stakeholder agencies, a summary of which is included in his report.
The increase in the service’s operating budget for 2019 is overshadowed by other departments at city hall – in the clerk’s department, for example, the budget is up by 24.9 per cent over last year – however, St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge wants to set the record straight on his request for a 5.4 per cent hike in his operating budget this year.
In a dollar amount, that’s almost $12.5 million, up $645,000 from a year ago. It represents about 22 per cent of the city’s 2019 operating budget. A figure that has held fairly steady over the past eight years, according to Herridge.
The line items that jump out are a 200 per cent increase in part-time wages to $105,000 and an 11.6 per cent bump in overtime/stat pay to $202,000.
But keep in mind also, as Herridge noted prior to Monday’s special meeting of council to begin budget deliberations, 94 per cent of the police service operational budget is eaten up by wages and benefits, something over which he has no control.
The message was designed to elicit a response, and it did just that.
A recent Tweet from St. Thomas Police Chief Chris Herridge advised, “This morning we hit 17,000 incidents, the highest I can remember since starting in 1989. We are on pace to potentially reach 19,000 – averaging over 52 incidents daily. In 2011 we reached 16,031 – our highest before this year. The dedication of staff at STPS has not wavered!”
A phone call to Herridge this past week uncovered other disturbing facts.
So far this year, criminal charges are up 72 per cent and property crime in the city is up 89 per cent over last year.
“So what’s happening is, I believe, there are social issues that are impacting St. Thomas,” advises Herridge. “No different than what I’m hearing from my colleagues in other parts of the province.”
Herridge continues, “And for us, there’s no doubt it’s connected to poverty, homelessness and addictions. Yes, you’re getting people who haven’t been involved in criminal activity. But, a lot of the names we are seeing are repeat offenders.”