By Gav Ross
COUNCILLOR Clare Le Serve’s attempt to save Pioneer Bay’s only sealed road from being ripped up and turned back to gravel was unsuccessful at last week’s Bass Coast Shire Council meeting, with the majority of her colleagues deciding it would be unsafe and costly to let it continue to disintegrate in its current state.
Bringing up the controversial matter during ‘urgent business’ at the tail-end of last Wednesday’s meeting in Cowes, Cr Le Serve moved a motion that requested Kallay Drive not be returned to a crushed rock surface, and that it receive ongoing maintenance until a special charge scheme is eventually sorted for the estate.
“This has caused a lot of concern and upset many in the community,” Cr Le Serve stated.
“This is a request from that community saying they don’t want their road turned back to gravel because it would be detrimental.”
The decision to return Kallay Drive back into an unsealed road was made at a council meeting in August, resulting in backlash from residents concerned about dust and the impact on property values.
When the road was treated with a primer seal in 2007, residents say they were told by council that the seal would stay in place until a special charge scheme, which would permanently seal all roads in Pioneer Bay and provide adequate drainage, was introduced.
Six years on, Pioneer Bay is still third on the priority list for such a scheme and the temporary primer seal on Kallay Drive is failing.
Council’s infrastructure director, Felicity Sist, said at the meeting that Kallay Drive’s seal is breaking down and the road would eventually return to gravel anyway.
“But it will be a slower process than if we do it proactively,” Ms Sist said.
“Potholes will continue to appear more regularly between inspections and it will become more costly to maintain the road.”
Ms Sist said the road could not simply be treated with another primer seal similar to the original because “there’s no pavement integrity to the road.”
“It would just break up very, very quickly,” she said, adding that if a grader returned the road to gravel, it would be easier to maintain and “much safer”.
Cr Andrew Phillips questioned whether Cr Le Serve’s motion would make the road worse.
“It will become increasingly more difficult for us to maintain that road in a safe manner and we would have to go out there more often,” Ms Sist replied.
The council has stated Kallay Drive is inspected every six weeks.
Cr Phil Wright said he would vote against the motion because “the economics just don’t stack up”.
Back in August, Cr Wright successfully argued for The Esplanade at Surf Beach to be made exempt from the list of roads that would be fully or partially returned to gravel throughout the shire.
“This was because The Esplanade is a significant tourist road, plus we’re doing a road study on it early in the New Year,” Cr Wright explained.
“We have to bring (Kallay Drive) back to crushed rock.”
An opponent of special charge schemes in general, Cr Wright said “it’s good people are yelling and screaming” about Kallay Drive because “it highlights a very complex problem” relating to estates in the shire that were originally built without adequate roads and drainage.
Cr Phillips added that he would rather see a gravel road maintained appropriately than a road falling apart.
The motion was defeated 4-2, with only Crs Le Serve and Brown voting in its favour.
Following the meeting, Pioneer Bay Progress Association president Zena Benbow expressed disappointment not only over the decision, but the way it was put forward by Cr Le Serve.
Ms Benbow said she distributed a detailed report from the PBPA four days before last Wednesday’s meeting, which requested a “stay of execution” for Kallay Drive and questioned whether $6000 in annual maintenance savings, if the road was returned to gravel, was a necessary saving for council compared to the health impacts dust could have on residents.
“We are disappointed Cr Le Serve did not put through a motion this evening based on the recommendations of (our) report, nor as instructed at the Progress Association meeting of November 26,” Ms Benbow said.
Ms Benbow said she was also disappointed in Cr Phillips taking information from Ms Sist “as gospel” rather than questioning the matter further.
The shire has not set a specific date for when a grader will tear through Kallay Drive, only confirming that it will be before mid-2014 and residents would be notified via mail.