More sensitivity and less stunt when reaching out to the homeless


city_scope_logo-cmykThe promotion was called Sleepless In Our City, a well-intentioned fundraiser for the United Way of Elgin-St. Thomas. In capsule form, former MP Joe Preston and Tim Smart, the regional sales manager for a couple of local radio stations, were going to bundle up and spend the night sleeping – if possible – in the back seat of their respective cars. In the case of Tim, a Honda Civic.
(Full disclosure here, I spent several years as a volunteer on the United Way campaign cabinet and the entire team is to be applauded for raising in excess of $485,000 in this year’s campaign, as announced Friday evening.)
The media release from the United Way noted, “In Elgin St. Thomas, 20% of home owners and 42% of renters were spending more than 30% of their household income on shelter costs.”

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It’s five o’clock boys, put down the hoses


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Members of the city’s police and fire service account for an overwhelming majority of members in the Sunshine Club each year and 2014 was no exception.

Of the 96 city employees who earned greater than $100,000 last year, 81 work are based at the police station or fire halls.

This corner talked at length last week with Chief Darryl Pinnell who made it very clear, “A lot of it has to do with base salaries now. Things are getting up to the point where base salaries are getting close to that ($100,000) number.”

Likewise, we had a lengthy dialogue with Chief Rob Broadbent on the factors impacting the salaries of firefighters.

“If you look at the Sunshine List this year, you’re going to see a number of firefighters on it versus officers. It’s not uncommon for our officers to be there just by pay grids. Tack a few call-back fires or overtime shifts on top of an officer’s salary and it doesn’t take very much for them to bump over the $100,000 threshold.”
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Membership explosion in Sunshine Club sure to annoy


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There sure was a rush on seats inside the 2014 Sunshine Club as outlined in a report to council Monday detailing City of St. Thomas public sector salary disclosure.

The city had a total of 96 employees who earned greater than $100,000, a more than 50% increase over the 2013 total of 62.

Breaking that number down, 33 members of the St. Thomas Police Service are now included, up from 16 in 2013.

Over at the fire department, 48 employees earned $100,000 or more in 2014 as compared to 32 the year previous.

And 15 city administrators exceed that figure, an increase of one over 2013.

Topping the earnings list at city hall was CAO Wendell Graves at $172,372 ($165,900 in 2013). John Dewancker, director of environmental services earned $139,693 as compared to $132,309 the previous year and Graham Dart, director of human resources, had a salary of $127,839 in 2014 ($124,784). Continue reading

Hospital redevelopment funding: fact or fiction?


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While the Aug. 24 announcement from Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews is encouraging news for redevelopment of St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, it has led to some confusion for area residents in the countdown to the Oct. 6 provincial vote.
Several readers have contacted this corner to question whether the project will proceed should the Dalton McGuinty government be shown the door in three week’s time.

In other words, is the $100-million-plus undertaking a go, no matter what?

City Scope went right to the source this week and talked with the main contenders running in Elgin-Middlesex-London.

The general consensus? The funding announcement has been met with a heaping dose of collective skepticism.
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