KINGSTON councillors have clashed again over the divisive Bay Trail, with the decision to award a contract for the next section of construction decided on a vote of five to four at last week’s council meeting.
A motion at the 27 May meeting passed to hand the contract for the construction of the project between Naples Road in Mentone and Rennison Street in Parkdale to CDN Constructors Pty Ltd for a lump sum of a little over $5.1 million. A contingency allowance of $515,544 to “cover unexpected financial variations relating to the works” was also approved as part of the motion. Council’s CEO was directed to execute the contract by 29 May.
Council agreed to amend a motion passed in December 2018 that stated that the contract be awarded to CDN Constructors Pty Ltd for a lump sum of $3.37 million. Following that meeting council advocated to VicRoads to not include the resurfacing of the road as part of the works. A compromise was reached where VicRoads would reimburse council up to $700,000 for those works.
Councillors Georgina Oxley, Rosemary West, David Eden, Steve Staikos, and Tamara Barth voted in favour, while Crs Tamsin Bearsley, Geoff Gledhill, George Hua, and Ron Brownlees voted against.
The mayor Georgina Oxley said “VicRoads had originally requested that the city spend approximately $1.4 million on resurfacing works but we didn’t believe it was the most appropriate use of rate payers’ money and agreed to advocate against this cost.”
“Council and VicRoads have since reached an agreement to share the cost and the project has received approval from the state. This is a great outcome for everyone in the community and will ensure there is a safe road, off-road cycling and walking path available for everyone, next to the foreshore.
“At the May 27 Ordinary Council Meeting, it was agreed that the previous contract approved in December 2018 would be amended, to allow for a new contract to be signed to get construction underway.”
Cr Brownlees said at the meeting “I was supportive of the bay trail right up until last year (..) when we started this mucking around with the trees business. That was never ever considered as part of the proposal.”
“The community is pleading for our support, pleading for us to listen, pleading for answers and responses, and they’re being ignored,” he said.
Cr West said “the point about this is this project has been delayed now for six months. What we’re seeing now is just the latest example of why it’s been delayed.”
“It’s been delayed not because everyone didn’t think it was a good idea, but because there were conflicts among councillors about what was the best way to do it,” she said.
Vocal opposers to the Bay Trail attended the meeting, heckling councillors from the public gallery to the point where the mayor Cr Oxley had to ask security to help keep them from interjecting.
The Bay Trail debate came to a head earlier this year, when a vote was held in the absence of two councillors to refer the Bay Trail decision making process to IBAC for investigation. That decision was rescinded at a special meeting of council the following week (“Trial on trail called off by divided council”, The News, 13/2/19).
The narrowing of Beach Road and the planting of trees have been among the biggest points of contention for those opposed to the controversial project.
Council CEO John Nevins told councillors that the report discussed at the 27 May council meeting “does not involve the planting of any trees.”
“After 25 years of talk, Kingston is 100 per cent committed to finally build the Bay Trail path filling in a significant missing section between Port Melbourne and Seaford. This will give young and inexperienced cyclists an alternative to riding along busy Beach Road,” the mayor Cr Oxley said.
“Our plan meets all VicRoads and Australian safety standards, is supported by Bicycle Network Victoria as safe for cyclists and provides plenty of parking while protecting the most environmentally significant areas of vegetation.”