Week of February 1

Let’s move City Hall into former SCITS building

Sir: Most people who visit Sarnia’s City Hall have heard it said, “The building is too small, we need to expand, council chamber is no longer large enough,” etc.

Much consideration has been given to this problem in recent years. Here is an idea a friend proposed: Sell the building.

In today’s market, the property has a potential value of several million dollars, money that could be used to rehabilitate the former SCITS building on Wellington Street.

Many of the city’s functions are spread out in separate buildings and properties. Whether it’s records, office supply and equipment storage or garden equipment, SCITS could solve that.

The playing field could be converted to parking, able to accommodate large gatherings at City Hall as well as city-owned vehicles now parked all over town in different lots.

The building has an auditorium for council meetings. The auditorium could be rented out along with the gym and refurbished swimming pool. Longer hours make a building more economical to operate.

If the SCITS building becomes the new city hall the activity would help stimulate area businesses and encourage those moving to reconsider.

Saving the SCITS building would preserve our history and fulfill the mandate of the Sarnia Heritage Committee and Ontario Heritage Act, which is “the conservation of our built heritage.”

The building has excellent bones, and the upgrades it needs could be covered by the sale of City Hall.

As a heritage building, it might access federal programs supporting culture, history and sport. It could become the home of the Sarnia Historical Society and Lambton County Historical Society, with display areas and dedicated space for photos, articles and artifacts.

The upgrade could be done with little interruption, with City Hall remaining in use until the SCITS conversion is complete. The sale could be predicated on a sizeable down payment with a reasonable closing date and stiff penalties for contractors who exceed a pre-determined time frame.

Good urban planners have shown that city halls serve no real planning or customer service advantage by being in the heart of a city.

Robert Whyte

Sarnia


Tree loss points to need for strong anti-cutting bylaw

 

Sir: Re: the Jan. 11 article describing how 20 or so mature trees were cut down on Murphy Road.

I understand the need to remove diseased trees. With threats like the emerald ash borer and oak tree fungus, there is a lot of work available to keep local tree services busy.

My objection is to the cutting down of healthy, mature trees in one afternoon that took decades to grow.

Today, you have to be an idiot to deny climate change exists, with daily headlines describing wildfires, floods, mudslides, hurricanes and bomb cyclones.

Even if the removed trees were replaced with younger ones it wouldn’t produce the same environmental benefit we need. Furthermore, studies show human beings feel more secure with a certain degree of tree cover.

Instead of doing something for the greater good, which means a few residents may have some minor personal pain to endure, the city has decided to reinvent the wheel and do a study. Meanwhile, Toronto, London and Oakville, to name a few, have already adopted strict bylaws to protect trees. Certainly there were citizens there who felt their personal rights were challenged. Ultimately, however, everyone adopted the new reality and the greater good was protected, along with the trees.

Finally, I can’t help but see a parallel with bylaws passed to restrict smoking in public places, which were adopted all over North America. Many citizens and businesses resisted the change, claiming, “It’s my right to do what I want, where and when” or “It will negatively affect business….”

We all managed to adapt and it has been for the better.

Sarnia has always struggled to be a progressive community, but it may be time to look beyond the city limits and see the bigger world. Instead of doing a study, why don’t we study the bylaws of other municipalities?

Judging by all the fervent discussion on this topic, though, it seems like Sarnia wants to remain on its own little (barren) island and resist a change I’m hoping is inevitable.

Maria Beauchamp

Corunna


Steak column was well done

Sir: I was very moved by the Jan. 11 column written by Phil Egan, ‘How an uneaten steak brought two families together.’

As a foodie, I was intrigued by the heading. But after reading the piece I realized how amazing his father was to show his kids that money isn’t everything.

So many people on getting a burnt steak would have said, “I’m not paying for this.”

Instead, by doing what he did, that man gained so much more than a few dollars left in his pocket.

Our society today needs to hear more of these types of stories.

Karen Callies

Sarnia


If students can’t buy cigarettes, why can they smoke at school?

Sir: As a teacher and a mother, I believe school should be an environment of good examples, a place where children can develop good decision-making skills, especially for their health.

We worry about their allergies and challenges; we strive to help them develop good social skills. We have dress codes. We teach them not only what to learn, but how to learn it in the best way.

Most of this happens at the elementary level and, I guess, we believe this is supposed to sustain them for the rest of their lives.

In high school we badger them about not doing drugs and alcohol, but not tobacco, which is every bit as addicting.

I can’t for the life of me understand why the Lambton Kent District School Board condones smoking!

I live near Northern Collegiate and, at any time of the day, can drive by and see as many as 30 kids in their appointed “smoke pit.” Yes, I’ve counted. Sometimes, I see teachers out there with them.

The number of children out there really doesn’t matter. What’s important is there’s a smoking area at all.

The Canadian government says students aren’t old enough to buy cigarettes (presumably for their health), so why are they permitted by the school board to smoke cigarettes at school?

Erin Thomas

Sarnia


Hospital land investors got sweet deal

Sir: I question the sale of the Sarnia General Hospital property for the ridiculously low price of $1,000.

A group of five investors is now responsible for removing the asbestos, demolishing the building, and cleaning up the property for resale. But the city is contributing up to $5.4 million for the cleanup cost, and may contribute more if needed.

I have concerns about this financial deal. The group plunks down $1,000 and now owns the property, but the city’s cost is $5 million or more.

When the property is finally clean up, this group of five investors will own a very valuable piece of property. And their cost was a mere $1,000?

Ken Lockrey

Sarnia