To the casual observer Council's 29 minute meeting the other day must have appeared fairly mundane. I was watching the meeting live-streamed to my phone, comfortably parked in a side road in Bega and, with the exception of the issue of the proposed demolition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club thought that it would be pretty mundane. The discussion to allow the RMS to demolish the Batemans Bay Bowling Club saw very little discussion by Councillors however Councillor Mayne, to the death, tried to represent the now almost silent faction of the community who had hoped that their might be a last minute reprieve. Of interest was his very open question in regards to rental return for the land. He basically wanted to know if the deal with the RMS would actually cover the interest that council pays each year on its $2 million loan that it took out to purchase the club and land. He didn't want to know how much they were going to pay - he just wanted some feedback of whether Council would benefit in the end or still be required any shortfall.
Above; Sue McKenzie, President of PerfEx, the Batemans Bay Performance and Exhibition group makes clear her sadness at hearing of the demolition of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club having been hopeful of a last minute reprieve to see the building transformed into a performance and exhibition space.
Wham - he was closed down quick sharp advised that such a revelation was commercial in confidence. So he let it go and they all voted for the bulldozers to come forth. What wasn't revealed is of interest. We will never know what rent the RMS pay however we do know that it is combined with a deal. The RMS will demolish and remove the building including the asbestos making a clean site ready to roll in their demountables and equipment for the bridge project. What is known now is that Council basically speculated on the purchase of the Bowling Club site and will now sell the property when the RMS have finished with it in 3 to 4 years. And hopefully they will sell it for more than the $2.73m they paid plus the $160,000 interest they have paid to date. A fairly innocent matter of dividends from the Water and Sewer fund finally managed to find a councillor with the gumption to ask the Elephant in the Room question. EVERY year the Water and Sewer funds pays the General Fund a dividend - but is there more to this than meets the eye ? Councillor McGinlay managed to have the Director of Finance admit that they budget for the "dividend" and that the "dividend" has been going on for a long time and that it is now factored into annual, four year and 10 year plans. The Director of Infrastructure joined in by supporting the process and saying that Eurobodalla pursues best practice pricing guidelines with the intent of making a small surplus every year. As Councillor McGinlay pressed on with his questions out came the smoke and mirrors with the Director of Infrastructure and Councillor Lindsay Brown deviating to talk about pricing structures saying how terrific the Council was with its initiatives to alter the billing model to best suit the 30% of homes in the shire that are usually vacant most of the year. The smoke and mirrors became double talk and it was soon apparent around the room that everyone was baffled enough to have forgotten that what Councillor McGinlay was actually asking was "Do we put up the water and sewer every year as a way of topping up the General Fund above the allowable 1.5% increase to cover the costs of the ever increasing overheads like wages and the ever mounting infrastructure maintenance and renewal shortfalls?" The short answer is YES.
The next CLANGER was another underarm delivery by Councillor Pat McGinlay that no doubt bought him no friends in the Executive if he actually had any left. Before I go into the details it is a good time to remind readers that the previous Council voted to extend the Huntfest for a period beyond the current Council term which means this mob can't overturn it. Councillor Anthony Mayne still firmly believes that having the event held on council property sends a really, really mixed and poor message. What is becoming clearer is that Council has now committed itself to tens of thousands of dollars to meet the challenge and request of local group Stop Arms Fairs Eurobodalla (SAFE) over the granting of the licence. While the group does not support the Huntfest activity the challenge they have mounted to the Ombudsman is entirely about the governance and democratic aspects of the previous Council body's decision and the fact that such action circumvents the present council's capacity to address this issue. They also challenge the process undertaken by Council and to date the Council has been defeated at each hold point dearly costing the community by an insistence to defy direction to make available documents deemed in the pubic interest. While they freely spend thousands of dollars at a time on legal representation to challenge the community the money they squander is in fact community money. Councillor McGinlay sums it up pretty well in his letter to the Narooma News Editor "What saddens me most and leaves me with a lingering feeling of contempt, is that the majority of the previous elected councillor body voted to extend this event for five more years as they neared the term of their accountability and responsibility." He continues "They did this being fully conscious that it was a highly controversial and divisive local issue within THEIR community. It was not just another 'ho-hum', rubber stamp event.They could have granted a licence extension for a further 1 year ( or even 2 years if they were feeling obstreperous.) But no, they went for a five year extension, after what, in my opinion, was an inappropriate, non-transparent 'tender-for-services' process. "They did so with undoubted (but unknown) bureaucratic advice, knowing that such a decision would take the determination beyond the term of office of a ' yet-to-elected and soon-to-be incoming, new composition of councillors to have any say in. "Only three members of that council body are still sitting. Their shameful legacy on this issue remains. As does the divisiveness within the community. An 'underarm bowling' victory (to date), if ever I saw one for cynical politics." he concluded. So the current Council is ham strung and can not overturn the flow on created by a previous council's decision and both Mayne and McGinlay are openly unimpressed. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now it appears that the current Council has unknowingly endorsed a motion that will tie up future councillors and Councils for decades and it seems that no-one gives a toss or has the capacity to understand what it all means except Councillor Pat McGinlay. Imagine that you have some shares, maybe a bit of superannuation, some savings but not enough to buy an house. You need a loan. You go to the bank, they assess your wealth, your income, your outgoings and your investment portfolio. They are happy to give you the loan on the condition that you continue to maintain the income, that you stay within your budget and that you DON'T move your shares around into anything they don't approve of (like renewable energy or plantation forests for example that they consider higher risk investments with poorer returns) But what if you like renewable energy and plantation forests and want to support those industries and you consider that the returns are acceptable and the financial risks are minimal - what do you do....? You want the money..... they are the only bank in town and without the loan you know you will walk out with nothing... so you sign and basically swear you will tow their line for the period of the loan - from that point on they own you. A bit like a Council taking out loans with the NSW State Government. The NSW Government run financier (TCORP) TCorp offers loan facilities to New South Wales local councils seeking funding for projects which make up part of their annual expenditure programme. Loan facilities, at competitive rates, are available to local councils who qualify, or have an approved plan in place to qualify, under the NSW Government's financial sustainability benchmarks and satisfy TCorp’s on their standard terms and prudential requirements Financial sustainability benchmarks - that translates to the NSW Government Fit for the Future - a measurable criteria set by the NSW Government that Council is required to meet. And they don't like renewable investments ..... new age, not blue chip and far too brown rice, too much leg hair and less than acceptable touchy feely. At last Tuesday's meeting Councillor McGinlay, as a matter of Urgency, attempted to gain the support of his fellow Councillors to defer or hold up on the signing off on loans which council had agreed to apply for at their last council meeting in light of more information that arose that both he and other councillors would not have been aware of before accepting those loans.
Above: a VIDEO extract from the Ordinary Meeting of Eurobodalla Council Date: 12 June 2018 - Councillor Pat McGinlay speaking to the Agenda Item:Urgent Business ** See Note below
Eurobodalla Council had only recently moved to rework its investments to reflect a greener portfolio and to find a balance that would allow them to invest in renewables as a way of reflecting community expectations. This move had the consequence of downgrading their credit rating to a B++ but it was a downgrade they were prepared to accept. So did the Mayor accept this as an item of urgent business - NO. She advised Councillor McGinlay that they could all have a chat about it later and that he could bring it forward as an issue in a fortnights time. It is unknown when the loan agreements need to be signed however it will be interesting when the next Financial Investment Report comes up and a request is made to reconsider the green investment portfolio only for Councillors to be told that there can no longer be any shift in that portfolio without the "banks" agreement. And that will be for the the life of the loans which could well be several council terms into the future. Much like Huntfest..... ** This video extract remains the property of Eurobodalla Shire Council and is published here for the purpose of reporting a Council matters relevant to the community and communicating that information under fair dealing.Transcripts of Council documents or material taken from their website for the purpose of reporting news: "exceptions to the general rule [of copyright] include situations where the creator is an employee, is commissioned to create the work, is a freelancer, or the work was created under the direction and control or first published by the Government.(Editors Note:The Government in this instance is considered, by The Beagle, to be inclusive of Local Government)."There are also a number of fair dealing exceptions to copyright infringement, including fair dealing for the purpose of criticism and review, parody and satire, research and study, and reporting the news.""In Australia, the Copyright Act provides "fair dealing" exceptions for the limited purpose of research or study, criticism or review, parody or satire, and reporting news."It is the opinion of the Editor of The Beagle that this extract from Council's meeting in regards to Urgent Business is of community importance. https://www.copyright.org.au