SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

That’s your problem right there.

As soon as your council starts making political decisions instead of needs’-based decisions with its spending program, down the track the real community priorities fall by the wayside.

And that seems to be the case with the $19 million Cowes Cultural Centre versus projects like the upgrading of Shetland Heights Road.
The council is planning to borrow most of the $19 million it will need to build the new cultural centre and is embarking on a major loan-raising exercise starting with $4 million this year.

That will drive total shire borrowings up to $20 million by the end of this financial year, ballooning out to $30 million by 2021-22.
The shire has been given the opportunity to borrow $10 million at a subsidised interest rate and there’s a general drive by government to get all levels of government to support the recovery from COVID with expansion programs.

But there’s no doubt that a project like the Cowes Cultural Centre, virtually fully funded by loans, makes a council averse to taking on other projects they’ll have to fund from rates or borrowings.

There can be no doubt however, that if you are going to put a new junior secondary college at the corner of Potters Hill Road and Shetland Heights Road, San Remo, that both roads are going to need to be upgraded, not to mention adding a big roundabout at the intersection with Phillip Island Road.

Something unexplained happened when the shire council originally gave the developers of the new San Remo residential areas their certificates of compliance, without Shetland Heights Road being properly constructed.

However, now that we have got to this point, it is up to the Bass Coast Shire Council to sort it out.

The local residents cannot be expected to pay for what will be the main connector road into the new school from San Remo.

The state government is stumping up almost $30 million for the college and more for the work on Potters Hill Road.
A normal council with appropriate sources of income might be expected to pay for the upgrading of Shetland Heights Road as the community’s contribution to the school project.

In fact, that is what a well-managed council is supposed to do – leverage up the income it gets from rates and borrowings with government money to get better bang for the ratepayers’ buck.

That’s not what has happened with the Cowes Cultural Centre.

As worthy as the project might be, it needed to wait until a proper contribution was secured from the state and Commonwealth.
It was a political, bloody-minded decision, pure and simple, to demolish a perfectly adequate community facility before design and funding was in place.

We will be watching for other worthy projects that fall by the wayside as a result and how successful the council is at achieving its ambitious capital works program.