It was a three-year battle to save a couple of rural schools in Elgin, but in the end, it may have been a last-minute letter of clarification that sealed the deal. Tuesday evening (Nov. 26) Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) trustees voted overwhelmingly in favour of rescinding a motion to shutter New Sarum and Springfield public schools next year. The motion had initially been introduced in October by Elgin trustee Meagan Ruddock, with the support of fellow area trustee Bruce Smith. After the school board completed an accommodation study of a dozen area schools, it was recommended four of them be closed: South Dorchester, Westminster Central, New Sarum and Springfield public schools. A fifth, Sparta Public School, was to be repurposed as a French immersion school. Several trustees had opposed Ruddock’s motion in the belief such a move could jeopardize the business case for the construction of a new school in Belmont.
Justice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option. Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected. Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog. He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7. Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.
Proving her inaugural run at federal politics was no one-hit-wonder, Karen Vecchio cruised to an easy victory in Monday’s federal vote. She will represent the constituents of Elgin-Middlesex-London for a second term after garnering just shy of 31,000 votes, up from 28,000 in 2015. Liberal hopeful Pam Armstrong was a distant second with just over 14,000 votes. That is far less than the 17,642 gained by Lori Baldwin-Sands in 2015. We caught up with a battle-weary Vecchio on Thursday for a lengthy conversation on her local success which was tempered by the failure of leader Andrew Scheer to power past the Justin Trudeau Liberals. To open the discussion, we asked Vecchio about the strain she underwent running a 40-day campaign marathon.
“You’re going every single day from dusk till dawn. And honestly, the thing that keeps you going is all the volunteers that surrounded you. But physically, you are getting drained, mentally, you’re ready to go. You’re going, going going, but physically, you’re getting tired. But it’s really hard when one time I had a 93-year-old lady who coordinated 16 volunteers. You’re not going to say ‘no.’ “So, I just kind of went to the pace that my volunteers were at. That kept me going every day. Hard, hard, hard, and it was wonderful. I’m surrounded by really hard-working people that motivate me every day.”
Recognizing the need to fix “long-standing issues with how hospitals are funded,” the province this past week announced an additional $68 million in funding to support small- and medium-sized hospitals in Ontario. Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek unveiled the funding boost Thursday (Oct. 17) at the CASO station, indicating St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital (STEGH) will received $1.47 million under the investment geared to ending hallway healthcare. “Noting that it is a medium-sized hospital, the hospital has faced its fair share of problems throughout the years,” acknowledged Yurek, “in spite of its success in implementing the Lean program throughout the facility.” The Lean management program – adopted by the hospital several years ago under then CEO Paul Collins – maximizes patient care while minimizing waste at the facility. In other words, creating more value for patients with fewer resources.
While one St. Thomas councillor expressed concern over further investment in the city-owned Wellington Block, an architect working on the social services and housing campus at 230 Talbot Street is “over-the-top excited” about the possibilities inside the now-vacant structure. That’s according to city manager Wendell Graves, who updated council on the status of the former Wellington Public School at the April 15 reference committee meeting. And, one of those possibilities is converting each classroom into a residential unit, with the wainscotting and chalkboards in place so that some of them could be live/work spaces. Graves envisions a total of 19 units of various sizes on the three floors, with each having its own heating/air conditioning system. Not all units would be of the geared-to-income variety, with a number of them to be market driven.Continue reading →
As debate swirls around the province’s decision to raise the minimum wage in stages, beginning Jan. 1 of next year, the Kathleen Wynne government has not taken into account the impact on school bus operators, most notably small, independent firms that have safely transported students back and forth to classes for decades. The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) estimates nearly one million Ontario families rely on school buses to get their children to school. The Wynne government’s push to hike the minimum wage could threaten the availability of bus service in the coming year. Continue reading →
In a compelling presentation last month to Thames Valley District School Board trustees, St. Thomas developer Doug Tarry stressed “it would be really dumb to close New Sarum (public school) because you are going to wipe out empty seats at Mitchell Hepburn.” With the number of new homes coming online, Tarry insisted both schools will be needed. He noted 92 lots in his newest St. Thomas subdivision sold out within four days of release. Well you have to look no further than Monday’s council agenda to ascertain Tarry was not stretching the truth. The St. Thomas housing market is on fire and school board trustees should have paid heed to his warning. Here’s a rundown on applications before council June 19. Springwater Developments is proposing five buildings, each containing four townhouse units and two lots for semi-detached dwellings to be located on Arbor Trail in the Orchard Park South Development Area. Shawside Development Ltd., is proposing to develop 59 lots for single detached dwellings and 39 multiple-attached or detached dwelling units with part of another block of land set aside for future development. This is to be located on Old Course Road. Owner Russell Higgins plans to develop 55 lots for single-detached dwellings on the former Gloin Farm property adjacent to the Shawside Development Area. And Tarry is seeking permission to proceed with Phase 1 of his Millers Pond Subdivision on the former Parish Farm, west of Fairview Road. This would entail 52 lots for single-detached dwellings. This is in addition to a total of 255 dwelling units proposed for the Harvest Run Block Plan on the former Axford Farm, east of Centennial Road. Of course the London-based school board dismissed all presentations from a bevy of concerned parents, students, municipal and business leaders and will march ahead with its plan 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. Again we refer to the presentation that evening from John Hueston, president of the Aylmer Express newspaper, who opened with the Mark Twain quote, “In the first place, God made idiots. This was just for practice. Then he made school boards.” Continue reading →