Council told: cut rates, build bridges

RELATED: Boisdale effluent charge causes stink

THIRTEEN written submissions were received from the public for Wellington Shire Council’s draft 2014-15 budget.

Those making submissions asked for action ranging from reductions in rates through to better proposed bridges and help with community projects.

After formally receiving the submissions last Tuesday, councillors will consider the submissions before adopting the final budget during a special meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The budget featured a general rate rise of 3.8 per cent, the lowest in more than a decade.

The budget also includes a $30.87 million capital program.

Concerns were raised about an annual service charge being imposed on 28 properties around Boisdale for the common effluent system.

Boisdale is the only town for which council provides an effluent system and the council is introducing a user pays service charge, similar to the garbage charge.

Sale resident Meryl Edwards pushed for Brady’s Bridge on Maxfields Rd be replaced with a road bridge, not a footbridge as council has planned.

Ms Edwards said a road bridge, replacing the one closed nine years ago because of its poor condition, was needed to restore permanent access to homes and properties.

“The reduction of service due to the closure of this bridge has affected my family and a few other families in the area,” she said.

“When the floods do come, we’re without permanent access to our home. We literally don the coat, the waders, gumboots and we wade out through the flood waters so we can get in and out of our home.”

Council has allocated about $150,000 to build a footbridge, while a new road bridge would cost about $400,000.

“Spending $150,000 on a footbridge used by maybe a dozen bodies a day, versus spending twice that amount on a road bridge used by increased numbers of cars due to the increased population since the last road count was done in the early 2000s that stacks up much better,” Ms Edwards said.

Council is set to put on hold design work until it fully considers Ms Edwards’ submission.

Southern Rural Water east water supply general manager Terry Clapham said council should revise its decision not to continue funding for the West Gippsland Salinity Management Program.

During the past five years, council has contributed an average of $32,000 a year.

Without council’s funding, Mr Clapham said, a levy for the program paid by SRW irrigators would double.

Mr Clapham said the salinity reduction program helped protect local roads and 16,000 hectares of agricultural land and also reduced in the risk of salinity in areas of urban expansion.

“The salinity impacts can be felt by urban, industrial and rural ratepayers.

“The economic impacts are certainly felt by the whole of the shire, not just Sale and Maffra MID constituents,” he said.

Sale Neighbourhood House manager Kathryn Bertacchini asked council for funding to upgrade car parking at the facility.

Many elderly residents and people needing disabled access have expressed concerns when attempting to park in either the front or rear car parks.

“We’ve been able to increase the capacity of the services we deliver, but a huge barrier for people wanting to come to us is being able to access the car park,” Ms Bertacchini said.

However, council is unlikely to allocate funding in its budget, but will work with the neighbourhood house to identify alternative funding opportunities.

The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail committee is seeking council funding to manage and maintain the trail through Wellington.

Latrobe City Council already has an annual maintenance funding arrangement.

Wellington council currently contributes to the ongoing development and maintenance of the trail through annual maintenance activities in Stratford, Maffra and Heyfield, and assists the committee with capital funding applications.

It is recommended council continue to carry out these maintenance activities and assist with funding opportunities, but not allocate more money in the budget.

The Victorian Farmers’ Federation has suggested council change the rate differential for farm land from 80 per cent of the regular rate to 50 per cent over the next three years.

In its written submission, the VFF claimed farmers paid a much higher rate burden than the general community despite requiring less for council services than the general community.

“Property-based rating disadvantages farmers’ relative to other groups in the community, since land is the farmers’ primary income producing asset, whereas land is merely the site on which non-farm businesses’ assets operate.”

Council was recommended not to agree to a request to seal Banks Rd, Gormandale.

The submitters claimed the 3.4km stretch of gravel road carried heavy loads of traffic, resulting in it becoming corrugated and, at times, dusty or muddy.

According to council, the road primarily serves adjoining residents.

It is maintained in line with council’s management plan.