THE Bass Coast Shire Council has “wasted” another $1/4 million on a failed street and drainage project.
This time they’ve dropped $223,645 on design and preliminary works associated with Sunset Strip Special Charge Scheme after council voted to axe the much-maligned project at its council meeting last Wednesday.
While the decision may be good news to the 346 residents of Phillip Island affected by the home-owner paid scheme, it’s bad news for the rest of us.
Not only will the $8 million road and drainage project not go ahead now for one of the most neglected housing estates on the Island, it has also sucked much-needed cash out of an already strained shire budget.
Not even the drainage aspect of the project, valued at $3.3 million, will go ahead now… unless 75 per cent of people come forward and ask for it.
The latest hit follows a similar debacle with the $7.1 million roads and drainage scheme at Cape Paterson in April 2014, to which 470 property owners were expected to contribute $5.6 million. They also said they didn’t want the scheme and couldn’t afford it.
The shire lost $259,000 on that project.
In March 2012, the shire also lost a significant sum on a special charge scheme in Surf Parade, Inverloch.
Last Wednesday, the council finally acknowledged that it had no alternative but to drop the Sunset Strip project to which residents were expected to contribute up to $7.2 million.
“Generally special charge schemes are good but I don’t believe we have the support here and if it went ahead, it appears that 75 per cent of the people would be asking us to support them (financially),” said Cr Neil Rankine, indicating council itself couldn’t afford it.
Cr Andrews Phillips said the motion to drop the scheme put him in a very difficult position.
“I voted against it the first time around because I didn’t believe the support was there but now we’ve spent a lot of money to get the detailed plans done. We’ve wasted a lot of money. Why did you vote for it then?” he said.
“It would be better to at least put it to the community (the drainage component) and allow that vote. The next time it might come up could be 80 years away. You should have voted against it before we spent all this money.”
Of the 346 property owners circulated with a questionnaire about the “need” for the scheme, 126 failed to respond, 106 said outright that it wasn’t needed and of the 114 who agreed it was needed, 60 of those said they weren’t prepared to pay for it.
Many people affected by the scheme said they would either need financial assistance if the project went ahead (122) or they simply could not afford it (88).
The Sunset Strip Road Watch Collective has issued a “we told you so” statement this week.
“The Sunset Strip Road Watch Collective is relieved the BCSC has seen sense at last in stopping the high-cost road and drainage plan,” they said this week.
“Unfortunately, to reach its decision it has cost rate payers $223,000 and that comes on top of the $259,000 it squandered on the same fiasco at Cape Paterson.
“This reminds us of the definition of madness: ‘To do the same thing twice and expect a different outcome’.
“The whole issue has caused enormous angst and upset in the Sunset Strip community, however it has also tightened ties amongst many in the community, making us a formidable group.
“Councillors Wright, Drew and Le Serve were no help and voted to continue with a Special Charge Scheme despite overwhelming objections from the community, voiced in numerous letters to the papers, emails to councillors and at council forums.
“It’s ironic that Cr Wright’s area of Smiths Beach had the Primer Seal road surface laid on two roads last year as the result of a “political decision”, while not supporting it for Sunset Strip roads as we have often asked.
“Furthermore, while Councillors Drew and Le Serve didn’t bother to respond to emails from our group, Cr Wright responded with condescending remarks and dubious calculations causing more angst to our community.
“We believe it is incumbent upon the Labor Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins to review legislation on Special Charge Schemes, especially under what conditions they can be applied and the objection process which gives non respondents a voice which favours whatever council wants.”
Others pay twice
The group says it was inspired by the Cape Paterson group’s success and believes issues that arise can easily be attended to with regular maintenance.
It was an issue that Island councillor Phil Wright addressed.
“How are we going to maintain these roads now,” he said.
“People in Cowes have paid for their special charge schemes and now they are going to have to pay to maintain their roads and drainage (at Sunset Strip). They are in effect paying twice.
“How much is it going to cost us annually?”
The shire General Manager Infrastructure, Felicity Sist, said she would have to take the question on notice.
Cr Wright agreed the shire should at least take the drainage component to a public vote.
But the motion to withdraw altogether was passed on the votes of Crs Rankine, Phillips, Crugnale and Brown.