AT last night’s Council meeting the options for the special rate variation were endorsed by Council and concerns regarding Council underwriting the War Birds air show were raised.
Also of note were two of the five matters discussed in closed Council including a former resident appealing a water bill (Read: Fuel to the Fire), and a code of conduct issue defined as a security concern (Read: Council Plot Thickens).
Another agenda item held in closed Council pertained to Council’s operational land with reference to the previously proposed purchase of 6 Walter Pye Avenue in Scone and a proposed land sale within Aberdeen Heights Estate.
This month Cr James Burns was absent from the meeting.
Matthew Summers asked to defer their decision on development application 30/2017 for a subdivision of land on Moobi Road to allow the applicant the opportunity to address concerns with the development. Later in the meeting the Council agreed to defer their decision.
Lee Watts, acting as manager of the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre gave an annual presented to Council on the work of the Centre and highlighting funding sources and shortfalls. Services have been reduced and staff hours have been cut. Council donates $5,000 to the Centre to support the provision community services which would otherwise be unavailable, but it was noted $2,532 is given back to Council in rent. Later in the meeting Council resolved to increase the donation to the Centre to be $7,532 so that overall the Centre received $5,000 in funding.
Councillor Abbott asked why she was still awaiting a report on the welfare of cattle at the saleyards, in relation to bruising of the animals. Cr Collison said the matter was raised last week at the saleyards committee and a Council employee would be looking into the matter. The Mayor said it was yet to be determined where the bruising was occurring such as in transit, saleyards or at the meatworks. Cr Abbott said the matter was first raised in May 2016 and the investigation and report should already have been done.
Murrurundi River Walk
Councillor Brown asked that after the town revitalisation Council ensure the Riverwalk be maintained.
Business Sponsoring Merriwa Town Sign
Cr Abbott asked if it was common practice or proper for a business to be highlighted as a sponsor on the welcome sign for Merriwa. Cr Campbell said the signs had been approved by the RMS in terms of their usual specifications. Cr Abbott explained that was not the issue and her concern related to private business being promoted on Council welcome signs. The matter was taken on notice and clarification will be sought.
Cr Abbott first noted her apology for not being at the last library meeting were not noted in the minutes and asked it be rectified. She also noted there was nothing on the Council’s website properly promoting libraries in the Shire and the current website for libraries which included Muswellbrook and Denman and had only basic information on libraries in the Upper Hunter Shire. She noted this was to be rectified in November and December but it had pushed bac to February and March and asked why. Matthew Pringle, staff member said staff were very busy and Christmas – New Year break was coming up. It was taken on notice that the work may be brought forward.
Cr Abbott noted a resident Catherine Brooks who had experience with rebranding had done work on Aberdeen’s rebranding as part of the town revitalisation work and said she was concerned when Ms Brooks informed her that her work had not been taken on board. Cr Abbott said, “it’s a shame when we have these skills then don’t take on board what they have suggested.” Cr Fisher said they would be taken on board.
Streamline Disabled Parking
Cr Watts asked that the process for disabled parking takes too long and requested Council look into how it could be streamlined.
Cr Abbott raised concerns about medication errors at Merriwa Aged Care Hostel. Cr Campbell said they were not considered to be of a life threatening nature and it has been corrected. Cr Abbott highlighted that there were 7 errors in August and another 2 errors only a couple of months later. Cr Abbott also recommended they apply for the liveable community grants program to implement the cycling without age cycle program which is to begin soon at Murravale. Cr Abbott also asked of the solar panels on the roof could be examined for an investor. Cr Watts noted her congratulations on the hostel being a finalist in the Hunter awards.
Funding for Emergency Housing Unsuccessful
Cr Watts noted it was a shame Council was unsuccessful with grant funding to renovate the house next to Council for emergency accommodation for homeless people or families in crisis. The Mayor said he was surprised they were unsuccessful with the funding.
Lack of Interest in Australia Day
Cr Watts noted there had been very few nominations for the Australia Day Awards. Mayor Bedggood said they had done extensive media outreach and spent money on advertising including radio and was unsure what else they could do.
Editorial note: Council continues to refuse to send any media releases to scone.com.au since our report on Minutes Missing the Miff in March. In an editorial No Gag Order Here we highlighted that organisations which take an approach to media of withholding all good news stories as punishment to them for writing any controversial stories simply cut their nose off to spite their face as the controversial stories will still be written and they are simply withholding their good news. So eight months later we continue to see the proof is in the pudding.
Murrurundi Water Tower
A motion was passed to do a structural and heritage assessment of the water tower on railway land. Cr Brown noted it was Australian Rail Track Corporation responsibility to maintain their own assets, but was in favour of the motion to preserve an important piece of history. Cr Fisher said he was not in favour of the “rusting eyesore”. Cr Campbell asked if it would become part of the model train railway. The Mayor said it was part of a current concept.
Flying Fox Camp Management
Cr Abbott said it was a good management plan but cautioned the public should be educated about the species and was aware some people had cruelly exterminated some of the flying foxes and it should be discouraged.
Scone Cup Public Holiday
The Mayor said it may be a compromise to have a half day public holiday with a 12-6 half day option. Cr Abbott said the surveys had shown people wanted the full half day. Cr Watts said the survey should be town specific so that it could be seen what the residents of Merriwa wanted compared to the residents of Scone. The motion was passed that the public holiday would apply from midday to midnight.
Cr Abbott objected to a proposal for Council to underwrite the insurance for the War Bird display. Noting the organisers of the event had done this in the past and not required Council to take on the insurance responsibility. She voiced concern at the high risk nature of air shows when things to go wrong, the possible financial exposure for Council and the ratepayers and questioned if Council had the resourcing and expertise to conduct the necessary risk management work insurance companies require. Cr Abbott said she supported the air show and agreed Council could support the organisers in a range of ways as they had done before, but said the move for Council to take responsibility for insurance of the event was alarming. Cr Campbell said it needed to be done for the benefit of Scone and the Upper Hunter. Cr Abbott said the air show had taken place previously without Council taking on the risk of being the underwriter. The Mayor said he was confident in the advice of Council staff who said Council would break even or make a profit which could be put back into the airport but agreed that perhaps there should be a risk assessment undertaken. Cr Abbott said she found it hard to believe Council had the capacity for the risk assessment work and to dedicate a staff resource when they “we can’t even get lawns in the Shire mown. Ross Pay should be underwriting this. I think this is madness.” The motion was passed that the Council would underwrite the show.
Cr Brown asked why the Rosedale Estate plan had not been put on display yet. It was take on notice.
SPECIAL RATE VARIATION
Council outlined the options that would be presented to the community for a special rate variation.
The options for the special rate variation (SRV) endorsed by Council last night is as follows:
Option 1: Apply for a loan facility of $8 million to fund part of the Town Revitalisation projects to be repaid by a SRV at 2.1% plus rate pegging with a low farmland SRV increase of 0.75% plus rate pegging.
Option 2: Apply for a loan facility of $10 million to fund all of town Revitalisation Projects to be repaid by a SRV at 2.6% plus rate pegging with a low farmland SRV increase of 0.75% plus rate pegging.
Option 3: Apply for a loan facility of $12 million to fund all of Town Revitalisation and other Community Projects to be repaid by a SRV at 3% plus rate pegging with a low farmland SRV increase of 0.75% plus rate pegging.
Option 4: Apply for a loan facility of $15 million to fund all of Town Revitalisation, Community projects and major road upgrades ($3 mill) to be repaid by SRV at 4% plus rate pegging with a low farmland SRV increase of 1.25% plus rate pegging.
The motion also included an endorsement of special rate variation “potential projects list” for community engagement.
Cr Brown said he wanted a fifth option included which was the option for residents to reject the special rate variation, which was passed by Council. Cr Watts said she thought it was important to lay all options out for the community to make a decision. Cr Fisher said he thought the options were overly complicated and there was danger everyone would be confused. The Mayor noted IPART would look carefully at how the Council informed residents of the SRV as part of their approval. The Mayor said they would leave no stone unturned in reach the community through media, advertising and extensive community engagement.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Quarries: Cr Abbott asked again when she would receive a briefing on quarries in the Upper Hunter. She also asked why despite questions about Robertson’s Knob quarries that Councillors had not been informed that the Environmental Protection Authority had fined Stoneco $15,000 for illegal activities at the quarry. She asked what Council were doing as they had a role as a consent authority to ensure quarries were legally compliant. Cr Abbott asked a series of specific questions relating to compliance of quarries noting advice she had received on possible breaches. Matthew Pringle said there were too many questions to answer and he would take them on notice. He also said he was confident Council were doing proper monitoring saying that they go to site and the company submits an independent report to them.
Recycled paper: Cr Abbott asked why the considerably thick Council papers were not printed on recycled paper. It was taken on notice.
Airport minutes: Cr Abbott asked why the airport committee minutes were not included in this month’s Council papers. She was advised the meeting had only occurred last week and they had not had time to include them.
Café Safety Concerns: Cr Brown said the Let’s Eat Café was in disrepair and he requested a building inspection and report.
IGA footpath: Cr Campbell said the state of the IGA footpath was in disrepair and wanted to know when it would be fixed.
Noise: Cr Fisher voiced concerns that the state government was undergoing an industrial noise review which may see permissible noise parameters increased.