the community knows what the community knows
It's official - Council have voted to accept a tender to build the new Mackay Park pool and hall. In an epic Council meeting today the Councillors voted six to three to accept the tender. Throughout the discussions the veil of secrecy around the approved tender price made discussions difficult. All that could be revealed is that the councillors were voting to agree to the contract price, agree to the GAP between the amount they have and the amount they need to pay the contract price and to agree to commit funds into the future to pay for the operation of the centre. Councillors Mayne and McGinlay pressed to state that the community had no idea of how much was being voted on, where the GAP was coming from and whether there had been any scrutiny of the ongoing costs. What was revealed by General Manager, Catherine Dale, was that the final contract price would not be revealed for some time and that the GAP would be funded in part from the sale of the Moruya Racecourse, the dividend from the sale of Southern Phone funds, Real estate sales (read here the sale of the Batemans Bay Tourist Information Centre, Batemans Bay Community Centre and the many parks and reserves Council finds surplus to needs), Crown Land revenues and internal restricted and un-restricted funds and Section 94A contributions. How much? That remains a secret. It was revealed that the Audit and Risk Committee had been briefed on an outdated and flawed business plan and that if they did have an opinion on the financial risk of moving ahead with the project it was little more that an opinion as it was revealed that the committee was not privvy to all the facts as these were a secret... even from a committee sworn to confidentiality. What was revealed was that the majority of councillors believed that they had been briefed "ad nauseum" and there was nothing more to discuss. Basically it was a done deal. Councillor Phil Constable attempted to hold back the momentum of the decision by his peers to move ahead by putting forward a motion to defer the decision and instead call an Extraordinary meeting that would be specific to the project and enable greater inclusion with the community.
This motion was turned down by the Innes led 'gang of six' of Brown, Thomson, Nathan, Tait and Pollock while supported by Mayne and McGinlay. Next came a suggested motion from Clr Mayne who, after hearing the source of funding to service the GAP recognised that the community were hearing of this for the first time and they should be asked if they approve the suggested revenue sources. The councillor clearly articulated that while the community was aware of the project they were not aware that the decision being made affected each and every ratepayer in the shire who will be funding any shortfall in the project's projected revenues into the future.
This motion was also lost. On two occasions today the Mayor advised her councillors that "the community knows what the community knows". The community have been fed lies and deceptions from the outset. Once again we heard more repeated lies at today's council meeting. Council have had tight control of the narrative and, as such, have ensured that "the community knows what the community knows". With the approval of the tender to build the Mackay Park project now "moving forward" it will take some time for the community to realise that the expected revenues will be considerably less than the already flawed business case forecast, and that cost to build and the overheads to maintain and operate the facility will be considerably more. Only then will "the community know what the community knows". Only then it will be too late.