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Cost blowout

Tuesday, 17th April, 2012

By Andrew Robertson

A councillor has taken a swipe at City Council management while continuing to back a proposed lighting upgrade at the Alma Oval, despite a $140,000 cost blowout.

Council in October last year resolved to erect lighting at the Alma Oval before the start of the 2012 football season that is the equal or better to lighting at the Jubilee Oval.

Council originally estimated the cost of the project to be $400,000 but a report has stated the total cost could now be up to $540,000, based on a budget estimate from the design consultant.

The report to Council said the estimate does not include the design cost or any upgrade to the power network that may be necessary.

“At some point, it is likely that an additional amount (up to $140,000) will need to be voted for the installation of lights at the Alma Oval if the project is to proceed,” the report said.

Mayor Wincen Cuy yesterday said while he wasn’t against improving the lighting at the Alma Oval, he did have an issue with the size and timing of the project “given our budgetary restraints”.

Council at its ordinary meeting in February charged general manager Frank Zaknich with finding savings in an attempt to put the 2011/2012 budget into surplus for the first time in 11 years.

The move followed a review into Council’s finances by the State Government’s Division of Local Government.

Mayor Cuy said proceeding with the Alma Oval lighting would make it harder for Council to achieve a surplus.

“It’s probably something that will make it near impossible to do.”

The mayor also questioned the wisdom of the decision by Council to proceed with the project without securing government assistance.

“If a Council puts in or a grant but already has a resolution to (go ahead), do you think they will get the grant?”

But the councillor who moved the motion to improve the lighting, Tom Kennedy, said Council needed to improve infrastructure to make the city more attractive to prospective residents.

He said any savings should instead come from the operational budget.

“At no time should a council look at (trying to save on) its infrastructure,” he said.

“It’s what keeps a community vibrant and going forward.

“As a regional outback town we’re competing against communities that have far better infrastructure which is more likely to keep people living there and moving to these communities.”

Clr Kennedy also took a swipe at Council’s management, saying only projects put forward by himself and fellow councillor Bob Algate were brought to the attention of the Division of Local Government as part of its review.

“Any reductions in capital expenditure is a false saving, and it concerns me the only projects brought up by the department (in its review) were from Bob and I which were highlighted by management.”

He said there were numerous cases of ratepayers’ money being “wasted by mismanagement”, citing the failed section of road in Thomas Street and the airport runway.

“I just hope this latest information Council has been provided with doesn’t result in any more delays for a project that has been on the plans with Council for at least 12 years.”

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