Quite the surprise this week with the announcement City Manager Wendell Graves plans to retire next March.
Hard to imagine he began his public service 41 years ago as a student in the Municipality of Central Elgin planning office. That’s according to the city hall media release, however Central Elgin was not established as a municipality until 1998 and as reader Dave Mathers correctly points out it would have to be a planning office in Belmont, Yarmouth or Port Stanley.
Also, surprising is his rationale for the long lead time up to that date next spring.
“The next few months will fly by and I want to ensure city council has the opportunity to plan strategically for its next leadership,” advises Graves.
In commenting on the announcement, Mayor Joe Preston notes, “With our city positioned in such a strong, strategic direction city council appreciates the fact that Wendell has provided a good planning horizon so that we can thoughtfully recruit and put in place the next leadership for the City.”
Did you catch the common theme here?
Leadership for the city is provided by the city manager.
Most residents of St. Thomas are likely under the impression the city is led by the mayor and council.
After all, isn’t that why we elect them?
While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in long-term care homes across the province, you only have to look at first-rate facilities like Elgin Manor and Valleyview Home to witness the flip side of the pandemic coin.
Neither facility had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and we talked at length with Valleyview administrator Michael Carroll about that and he credits the loyal staff and ongoing support from the city.
“The staff here are excellent,” observed Carroll. “They are providing great care to the residents. They are very diligent in protecting themselves when they are out in the community.”
Elaborating on diligence Carroll notes, “They are very diligent in ensuring that they are screening themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 or any sickness for that matter.
“They’re calling in, they’re getting tested and staying home to not bring anything into the home.”
It is being billed as your online, one-stop, mid-week shopping solution offering an amazing selection of fresh, locally grown produce.
But, that is only half the story.
While you shop at CULTIVATE Virtual Farmers’ Market, you are supporting the young people at the Talbot Teen Centre in St. Thomas.
Vicki Asher, teen centre manager, says the virtual market is an opportunity for local youth to learn and build valuable life skills by being involved in the day-to-day operation of a small business while connecting them to local farmers.
She explains the participating vendors will set up the stores within the website as if they had a stall at a typical market.
Pleasant surprises have been in short supply the past two months in a world locked in the grip of a coronavirus that introduced us to social distancing, self-isolation, face masks, makeshift home offices and the vulnerability of those housed in long-term care facilities who often died alone with loved ones unable to say goodbye.
So, Friday’s announcement by the Ford government that, beginning Monday, the door to recovery is going to open just a crack is welcoming news
There is a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel.
The day before, there was a prelude to the shape of things to come with the introduction of the province’s Jobs and Recovery Committee which, according to the media release, “will focus on getting businesses up and running and people back to work after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”
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
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
Mayoral candidate Steve Wookey was proof the individual spending the most was not guaranteed success in last fall’s municipal vote.
In a breakdown of the audited financial statements from all candidates seeking a seat on St. Thomas city council, then councillor Wookey spent $9,490 in his attempt to upgrade to a mayoral seat. All but $400 of that amount was paid for by Wookey or his wife.
All of the mayoral hopefuls had a spending limit of $31,205.
Incumbent Heather Jackson spent $6,842 in her failed bid at another term as head of council.
Financial contributors of note to her campaign were Harold Kewley and Michelle Thomson who each chipped in $500.
The successful candidate, Joe Preston, ponied up $8,361 in his municipal politics debut. All of that, by the way, came out of his own pocket. Continue reading
In past years, this corner closed out the calendar with a review of the previous 12 months through memorable quotes, often humorous and even insightful at times.
This time around, with a newly installed council – which, after just a pair of meetings is proving more dynamic than the previous edition – we will peer ahead to the coming year and the corporate business needing attention in fairly short order.
First on the agenda – with an initial run-through beginning 5 p.m. Jan. 7 – is the city’s 2019 budget.
As outlined during the Dec. 17 reference committee meeting, the goal is to hold the municipal property tax levy to an increase of between 1.8 and 2 per cent.
The capital budget target for 2019 is $4,045,000, up from $3.4 million in 2018. However, keep in mind council will have to wade through tens of millions of dollars in requests.
The St. Thomas mayoral contest was a four-way race, however at the all-candidates meeting Thursday (Oct. 11) you couldn’t help but feel one of the hopefuls had all but conceded.
In front of a gathering numbering about 100 at the Knights of Columbus hall, Malichi Male used his allotted five minutes to talk not about himself but, instead, praised his three opponents.
“The rest of the candidates are amazing,” he observed.
“Heather (Jackson) has stood strong,” he added.
Turning his attention to Joe Preston, Male noted “Joe creates something out of nothing. Joe cares.” Continue reading