Thursday, April 22, 2010

Washroom Case, Union Cash, and Election Update

Answers Soon in Washroom Death

Last week, the city released an unofficial update on the investigation into an accident on city property in 2009. Last spring, Isabel Warren, a Rockwood high school student, died when a wall collapsed in a washroom at Southend Community Park. The Mercury had an update last Monday, and long story short, the province is currently wrapping up their investigation and it should be ready to release its findings in a month. The city has completed its own, independent investigation but they can't release details until after the province releases their findings.

“The field work is completely over. Now we’re reviewing the information and determining whether to take any action,” Ministry spokesperson Bruce Skeaff said.

“The investigation is still underway with the province, and until that has been finalized we can’t pre-empt the province. They still have the responsibility for the investigation,” said City of Guelph Chief Administrative Officer Hans Loewig. “We can’t release anything until the province has fulfilled their responsibilities and they direct us on it.”

More news as it happens.

Union Says They Could Have Saved Cash

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1189 says that he and his union showed the city several ways to save more than $1.3 million, and thus would have avoided so-called “Karen Days” this summer. After passing a budget that had to allow for five unpaid days off for city staff, and being unable to reach an agreement to spread those days out, the city mandated five days this summer where city services would be closed including no bus service every Sunday in August.

But according to Local 1189 president Gary Daters, his union had the key to keeping buses running on Sunday. Among the transit union’s cost-saving proposals was the elimination of a proposed base-to-bus radio system, the elimination of a proposed call centre, downgrading the Smart Card Study, the elimination of the purchase of a supervisor’s mobility van, a restructured schedule and training of staff, and the delay of purchasing of Nova Buses. The total savings would have come out to $1,352,000. “The city said it couldn’t do anything because those were fixed costs in the capital budget, but my feeling was they pretty much had their minds made up (on unpaid days off),” said Daters in an article in the Mercury.

But according to Mark Aromosi, the city’s director of human resources, the suggestions weren’t helpful because they pertained to the capital budget, which is separate from the operating budget, which is where the savings would have had to come from. “You simply can’t transfer those savings. There’s no ability to transfer them,” Amorosi said.

Election 2010 Update

Several new names were added to fall ballot last week, including a number of familiar names. Ward 6 Councillor Karl Wettstein will be pursuing re-election this fall, and if he wins, the 2010-2014 term will be Wettstein's third on city council. He was elected in 2000, and then lost in 2003 before being elected again in 2006.

The second new name on the ballot is Allan Boynton who is running for Ward 1 councillor. This is Boynton's first election in Guelph it seems, so I don't have too much about him. And try googling "Allan Boynton" and you get a myriad of different Allan Boyntons in the area, so I'm not sure what to say about him.

Then, in the mayor’s race, there’s David Birtwistle, and if he sounds familiar it's with good cause. Birtwistle was a councillor for Ward 4 serving two terms in 2000 and 2003 winning 26 and 28 per cent of the vote, respectively. He was defeated in the 2006 election after losing his seat to Mike Salisbury and garnering a mere 16 per cent at the polls. But it appears his ambitions have broadened since 2006, and what could now make the race for mayor even more interesting is if Cam Guthrie enters, as he also ran against Birtwistle in Ward 4 in 2006.

If you're a potential candidate for city council, we (and by 'we' I mean 'I') would love to hear from you. E-mail to break news of your candidacy.

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