War of words over ward funding

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FACILITIES at Monterey Reserve. A report on funding a redevelopment will be put to council in January. Picture: Supplied

DEBATE about a proposal to spend over $16 million on facilities in North West Ward broke down into arguments, bickering, and shouting from across the chamber at council’s 18 November meeting.

Councillors eventually voted to approve a request for a report to come before council in January next year investigating funding five different sporting projects. 

The report will investigate the merits of allocating $2.75 million to Pat Rollo Pavilion, $3.3 million to Monterey Pavilion, $2.4 million towards Belvedere Bowls facilities, and $2.5 million towards the former Linen House facility from council’s strategic reserve. The report will also investigate the feasibility of funding a $6.25 million redevelopment of Eric Bell Pavillion via a loan arrangement.

North West Ward councillor Kris Bolam moved the motion. He said that work needed to be done on sporting facilities in his ward because they were “terrible and retrograde.”

“In Frankston North there is a certain stigma associated with it, and these facilities don’t help,” he said. “These facilities already appear on our priority list, and are in absolute need of repair.”

Cr Quinn McCormack said “this is just to prepare a report about funding.” She said it was an “indictment” on council that “although women have always played sports” there are still clubs without female friendly facilities.

“The only thing we can do now is go through the list, looking forward to see how we can remedy 40 years of inaction,” she said.

Crs Brian Cunial and Colin Hampton took issue with the process of bringing the funding to a council vote rather than considering them through the mid-year budget review. “I can’t see how we can spend $17 million without being more informed,” Cr Cunial said. 

Cr Hampton said “I have never seen such rash spending.” 

Crs Hampton, Cunial, and Lillian O’Connor voted against the move, while all other present councillors supported it.

Cr Bolam said “where was the same scare mongering and false outrage when councillors voted to spend $20.34 million dollars of ratepayers monies for the $34.8 million dollar Jubilee Park development and pledged over $11 million dollars of ratepayers monies for the failed $27.6 million dollar Centenary Park redevelopment?”

Shortly afterwards a debate about another North West Ward project, the refurbishment of Nat’s Track by Monterey Secondary College, also broke down into similar arguments.

Council eventually agreed to “allocate $16,000 through the 2019/20 capital works variation process” from an underspend at a project at Wingham Park towards Nat’s Track. Warning signs, a grant to Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club (who owns the land the track is on) for construction and installation of access gates, and a grant contribution to Monterey Secondary College VCAL to “construct landscaped chicanes” will be funded with the money

The passed motion also “commits $80,000 in the 2019/20 midyear budget review for a CCTV camera on the Skye Road end of Nat’s Track.”

Cr Hampton attempted to change the motion to remove the words “commits”. He told The Times after the meeting that arguments had broken out because “much of the expenditure I had tried to change from committing it to referring it to the mid-year budget review”.

“In this case $90,000 worth of items were committed, and there were also items in closed council,” he said. “What business goes around committing money without going through the correct process? In my opinion it’s not good governance.

“It’s about balancing the books, seeing your ins and your outs, you have to balance what you’re going to spend your money on. (…) Referring them to budget takes all the projects, and it puts them all together so we can sit down and see them and see how much we’ve got in the pot. I’ve got no argument with the actual projects that were put up.”

Once the vote was passed, Cr Brian Cunial shouted that it was a “disgrace”.

Cr Kris Bolam said “I am sensitive to the fact that this area and its people not only suffer ongoing contemporary public safety problems, but historically this area and its people have suffered horrendous. Some councillors ought not to forget why the track was named after the late Natalie Russell.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 25 November 2019

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