Third-party audit at St. Thomas Early Learning Centre overshadowed by disturbing allegations


city_scope_logo-cmykWhat began this spring as a third-party audit undertaken by the city has escalated into a series of shocking and disturbing allegations and counter-allegations involving the St. Thomas Early Learning Centre – which operates childcare facilities in four different locations – and its former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers.
The allegations include a claim by Riddell-Laemers she was sexually assaulted by a member of the St. Thomas Police Service who was on the centre’s board of directors.
As background, City Scope was contacted in March by a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas with information on the departure of Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed. Continue reading

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Entegrus merger presentation the equivalent of football’s two-minute, hurry-up offense


city_scope_logo-cmykAny concerns about having to endure a lengthy dissertation from Rob Kent of Entegrus on the utility merger with St. Thomas Energy were quickly put to rest Monday evening.
And, we do mean quickly.
His presentation on the 15-month process to complete the merger, which was executed on April 1 of this year, came in at four seconds shy of two minutes.
That’s right, two minutes, with little in the way of enlightenment or answers to the many questions surrounding what is more a fire sale than a merger.
The city gets a 20.57 per cent stake in Entegrus Inc., meaning we will have little say in the operation of the entity. Continue reading

Alma facade face-off to be front and centre in the coming month


city_scope_logo-cmykIf you have been following this corner over the past couple of weeks, you know there is a divide in the ranks of the Alma College International Alumnae Association as to whether there is merit to replicating the facade of the main building at the former school for girls as part of proposed three-apartment complex.
At issue here is a 2008 Ontario Municipal Board decision that determined any new development on the Moore Street property must recreate the north façade of Alma to a depth of three metres.
The issue is on the agenda for Monday’s (Aug. 13) meeting of city council.
The developer, Michael Loewith of Patriot Properties, has submitted a letter to council outlining his vision for the Alma College property.
Loewith writes, he was intrigued by the OMB order and the opportunity it presented to pursue his two passions, history and development. Continue reading

Alumnae want Alma facade front and centre on proposed development


city_scope_logo-cmykIt’s been a decade since the main Alma College building succumbed to an arson-related fire, yet it appears things are heating up again with regard to the Moore Street property.
The design of a proposed three-building apartment complex on the site of the former school for girls is not being embraced by Lara Leitch and many members at the junior level (those who generally attended in the 1970s and 1980s) of the Alma College International Alumnae.
Leitch, the former vice-principal of Alma and the former president of the Alma College International Alumnae Association, has been fighting on behalf of Alma behind the scenes for a long time.
She appeared at the June 11 city council meeting where she presented a binder with petitions signed by alumnae from 11 countries and the signatures of 5,588 Elgin county and city resident who “want the college’s memory and façade preserved because of its cultural and architectural heritage in the city.” Continue reading

Will the city advocate for its most vulnerable citizens?


city_scope_logo-cmykLast month, we noted the city is looking at a bylaw to deal with non-licensed residential care homes in St. Thomas. The move is prompted, in part, by the situation at Walnut Manor, operated by Niagara Supportive Living out of Welland.
Well, a report from Tim Welch Consulting out of Cambridge – which undertook the city’s 10-year housing and homelessness plan – is before council Monday (June 11) and in it is a section dealing with informal residential care facilities (RCF) like Walnut Manor.
These homes “provide supportive housing to non-senior individuals who require assistance for daily activities due to physical disabilities, mental health and addictions challenges,” as defined in the Welch report.
“Level of supports varies depending on individual need but are most commonly in the form of meals, administration of medicine, bathing, supervision etc.,” the report continues. Continue reading

Moving forward on revitalization of Alma College property


city_scope_logo-cmykBack in February, city council got a first glimpse of what the Alma College property might look like through the eyes of Michael Loewith of Loewith-Greenberg Communities.
He envisions a trio of seven-storey residential towers on the Moore Street property, with one of the structures replicating the front facade of the main building at the site of the former school for girls.
His concept for the property is “to create something interesting and unique . . . something to last for a long time.”
At Monday’s (May 14) meeting council will get a look at how the development would be situated on the 11-acre property and authorize staff to prepare official plan and zoning bylaw amendments to proceed with the project. Continue reading

St. Thomas Elevated Park: An exciting ‘piece of the puzzle’ for the city


city_scope_logo-cmyk“We’re just turning the corner and making it a people place.”
Of course Serge Lavoie, president of On Track St. Thomas, is referring to the Michigan Central Railroad bridge spanning Kettle Creek which is being transformed into the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
In a conversation with Lavoie this week, he had exciting news on the status of Canada’s first such park.
“The first section of the bridge is actually pretty safe right now so except on days when we might be doing heavy construction, we’re going to start opening it this spring,” advised Lavoie.
“We’ll have the gates open, likely by Easter weekend and it will remain open all the time and only close to the public on the odd day when we have a work crew there.
“We want people to go up there and enjoy it because the railing system is in place, it’s very safe. And now, people should go up and enjoy it and watch our progress.”

Continue reading