Tuesday 28th of July will be a day to measure our sitting councillors. On Tuesday they vote (or don't) on taking the Shire into a death spiral of debt as they leap, headstrong, into a fiscal sink hole steered by the claim they have community support to do so. Councilors Innes and Pollock sat on a Steering Committee that was little more than lip service advising the committee (occasionally) of what Council INTENDED to do. The Committee was stacked with hand picked members that Council considered to be supportive and weak willed enough to offer no opposition. Council failed on this predetermination because most of the Committee revolted. But the community didn't know any of this as the steering committee, steered by Innes, Pollock, the General Manager and Usher, jumped ship in a very public way exposing the fact that they were simply a token gesture to represent "community Consultation". Alan Brown of Catalina is one of many in the community who have been vocal in asking Council to be open and transparent about the Mackay Park project, from the outset, when Council first purchased the Batemans Bay Bowling Club. Since that date the project as a whole has been embroiled in controversy, deception and secrecy.
Alan writes to The Beagle and to each councillor "It’s proposed at Tuesdays Council meeting the Batemans Bay Regional Arts and Aquatic Centre matter will be dealt with ( PSR20/015 ) . "As per council staff advice or recommendation the selected tenderer will be chosen to progress the development at the moment proposed to be funded by taxpayer funded grants of $51 million and a $ 4 million loan for how long not sure ?? On top of all that is there an amount for contingency’s, if there is, how much is that ?"
"The estimated ongoing future annual liabilities, depreciation, maintenance and costs including staff or contractors costs to operate the new arrangement don’t appear to be publicly available in the reports for public interest and consumption at this time. Why is that ?
"It’s very clear, once it’s agreed to proceed with, and the preferred tenderer endorsed a new public financial liability will also be endorsed. A liability that will need to be subsidised by the shire's residents with a very high percentage of aged with restricted weekly disposable incomes. For years to come, perhaps decades. How do you all, as the representatives of the shire's residents, justify that new financial liability and how that’ll be funded ?
"The whole thing has been a shambles right from the beginning when a councillor seeking to be mayor made promises to community groups in Batemans Bay . Councillors need to rethink and re prioritise the real needs of the shires residents and the ageing population, which is increasing. We already have the oldest demographic in NSW with 30% of our population over 60.
"As far as I’m concerned the development, as proposed ,should not proceed at this time it’s a very low priority in the present economic circumstances," said Mr Brown
A recent comment from the Minister of Local Government regarding community concerns of financial irresponsibility around Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre project saw her state: "The Government recognises that there are a range of views in the local community on the merits of the this project. While the project may not enjoy universal support from all members of the local community, the decision to proceed with the project is one that rests with the Council in its discretion.
"However, it is the Government’s view that all councils need to be careful in how they use ratepayers’ money, particularly at a time when they are under financial pressure and facing significant challenges in maintaining delivery of community infrastructure and services because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Ultimately, the Council will be accountable to its community for its decision to proceed with the project. The community will have an opportunity to demonstrate its support or dissatisfaction with the Council’s decision when voting at the next council election." If Council votes to go ahead on Tuesday it will set in motion a project that will lurch headlong into unknown territory. And by the the time the September 2021 elections come along it will all be too late to stop the momentum.