Mayoral Column 10 March 2014

Published on 10 March 2014

The money’s on the table

Loddon Shire is putting a total of $950,000 on the table this month for local people engaged in approved projects which build into our community life and infrastructure.

The money is channelled through two annual grants allocations – Council’s Community Planning funding of $750,000 and the Community Grants Scheme, which works with a total pool of $200,000.

Operating on a partnership basis, the Community Planning program, now open, allocates $50,000 to each of the Shire’s five wards for projects identified in local community plans or facility master plans.

An additional $500,000 is set aside in the Shire-wide Strategic Fund, which requires a formal application to Council.

This cash reserve is designed for “big picture” developments which usually attract significant external funding.

Applications for Community Planning funding must be received by 31 March to be considered by Council in June.

The Community Grants Scheme is designed to help local sporting and community organisations with smaller projects up to a value of $15,000.

This scheme opened last week for the next round of applications.

To date, Council has invested around $1.2 million in 603 projects worth, in total, $4.7 million.

The scheme funds projects on a 2:1 basis, with Council giving $2 for every $1 contributed by the applicant.

The maximum amount that can be applied for is $10,000 and this requires a contribution of at least $5000 from the applicant, either cash or in-kind or both.

Applications close on 2 May and these, too, will be considered by Council at its June meeting.

Application forms for both programs are available by visiting www.loddon.vic.gov.au or by calling Council on 5494 1200.

Water fees queried

A number of Loddon Shire residents have expressed their displeasure at what they see as excessive charges for use of Council’s standpipes and truck washes.
 
Council operates standpipes at Pyramid Hill, Tarnagulla, Inglewood, Bridgewater, Serpentine, Wedderburn, Mitiamo and Shelbourne and truck washes at Boort and Pyramid Hill.

The water accessed via this network serves a number of uses, ranging from rural domestic supply to construction and engineering needs.

In 2007, Council completed a significant upgrade to its standpipe and truck wash infrastructure, including installing the AvData key access system, automation valve work, solar power supplies and modified pipework.

The Shire also engaged the Canberra-based AvData to monitor facility use, manage customer accounts and collect fees on its behalf.

At the time, Council set its rate at $3 a kilolitre for standpipe use (other than Shelbourne, charged at $1), with truck washes at 40c a minute.

Last year, Council set its fees for 2013/2014 at $4.50 a kilolitre and 75c per minute at the truck wash, with the aim of covering its costs in providing the service. The principle followed was that standpipe use should not be subsidised by ratepayers, as had been the case in the past.

Unfortunately, as progressive price rises in the intervening years were never notified to customers, the jump to $4.50 was a shock to some.

Additional disquiet stemmed from the fact that Coliban Water charges $2.14 a kilolitre, though this figure excludes service fees.

Meeting in Serpentine late last month, Council received a detailed report from staff which showed the actual cost to Council of maintaining this service was, in fact, $5.45.

If Council’s aim of full cost recovery were to be applied now, the price would go up again, but Councillors decided to hold the standpipe fee where it stands and reassess the situation when the annual fees and charges review comes around next.

In the meantime, Council officers will closely monitor standpipe use and talk with customers and local communities about the perceived value of each installation.

Newbridge meeting called

A public meeting in Newbridge next week will give town residents the chance to have their say on plans devised by Council and the local community for improvement works in Progress Park.

A $10,000 allocation from Loddon Shire under the Newbridge Community Plan will enable a significant clean-up and beautification of the area.

Proposed works include establishing native grassland to complement the existing river red gums, planting native trees, a possible art installation, a new loop walk and an upgrade for the park’s furniture.

Chairman of the Newbridge Community Planning Committee Hedley Price said the proposed changes were part of the town’s Community Plan, developed about 10 years ago.

“We’ve already had some work done just below the hall and some opposite the hotel, but the rest of the area is a bit neglected,” Hedley said.

“Concept plans have been on display at the hall and general store. We have done that little bit of beautification already, but to do more would be great.”

The meeting will be held on Tuesday 18 March at 7.30pm in Newbridge Hall. For further information, please phone Hedley Price on 5438 7490.

Courting the campervanners

At the end of this month, the owners of 1,000 motorhomes will set up camp for a week at the Riverside Sporting Fields at Robinvale, on the Murray River.

The occasion is the 28th Anniversary Rally of The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia, running from 31 March to 6 April and offering a full program of entertainment, trade exhibitions, seminar sessions, craft and ladies’ activities, men’s sheds, cooking and dancing classes and bowls competitions.

RV owners are a key sector in the Shire’s tourism strategy and, to that end, Tourism Manager Robyn Vella plans to attend the rally to promote the Loddon Valley as a holiday destination.

Rally participants visiting the Loddon stand at Robinvale will have the chance to enter a draw to win a hamper of products and vouchers from our region.

As part of her preparations for the trip, Robyn is asking whether local business people would care to donate products or vouchers to help create an attractive prize.

If you would like to be involved, please contact the Loddon Visitor Information Centre on 5494 1257 or email ssteel@loddon.vic.gov.au to confirm your offering.

Donated goods and vouchers will need to be delivered, or picked up, by Thursday 20 March.

Bus visit cancelled 

Last week, this column advised that the Australian Government Mobile Office was planning a visit to Calivil this Friday (14 March) to help local residents with their questions about Centrelink, Medicare and other government services.

Council has now been advised that this visit has been cancelled, as the vehicle has been sent to Queensland.