Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Home Issue 23 Rates freeze but reduction unlikely

Rates freeze but reduction unlikely

By KIERAN FINNANE
 
In a special meeting held on Monday, the May Day public holiday, Town Councillors voted to support a rates freeze for the coming financial year.
 
Top row from left: Mayor Damien Ryan, Crs  Auricht and Melky; second row: Crs Price, Cocking and Banks; bottom: Cr de Brenni. 
 
This represents a significant downgrade of the rates assistance proposed by Councillor Eli Melky in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but came after officers warned that it was “too early” to proceed on any of the measures proposed by councillors. They would bring “inappropriate risk to the organisation as a result of too many unqualified variables”.
 
Examples of the identified variables included the longevity of the pandemic, with the potential of a second and third wave, and uncertainty around the advent of a vaccine; and on the economic front, evolving stimulus and assistance measures from the NT and Federal Governments, and uncertainty over when a recovery phase might begin, making it difficult to plan for.
 
Assistance largesse would obviously also have implications for council’s future resilience and the delivery of services.
 
Meanwhile, officers had proposed a $5m COVID-19 reserve, which was supported by all councillors. Its details will be fine-tuned over the coming weeks in budget deliberations, with confirmed measures announcement in June or July.
 
The suggested breakdown is a $1m package for non-commercial hardship cases; a possible $2.2m* to go towards CBD revitalisation depending on a breakdown of costs from the NT Government for the $20m total; and $1m to support operational responses, at the discretion of the CEO.
 
A contingency amount of $800,000 could go to commercial hardship cases if the NT Government assistance on this front proves insufficient (an allocation under their scheme, announced on 23 April, has not yet been advised).
 
After the motion to establish a $5m reserve had been supported, Cr Melky withdrew most of the rest of his package, but he sought and won support for a reduction in penalty interest on late rates, from 19% to 9%, effective from 30 June.
 
Deputy Mayor Paterson’s voucher scheme lapsed, technically for want of a seconder, but this was in the context of support for the $5m reserve.
 
Cr Marli Banks amended her motion to try to formalise the possibility of a waiver of rates, not only deferment, as part of the $1m package for non-commercial hardship cases. This was lost, as CEO Robert Jennings had already said, in response to councillors’ wishes, that officers would action that.
 
The charms of Zoom meetings are wearing thin, perhaps especially when they fall on public holidays. Mayor Damien Ryan appeared weary throughout and noticeably impatient with both the technology and Cr Melky.
 
__________________________
 
*This seems to be additional to $2.7m  already allocated to CBD revitalisation, and comes in response to the NT Government demanding a contribution towards their promised $20m, which will go towards shade structures, lighting, “activation zones”, and the Kwatja water-play park.
 
 
 

17 COMMENTS

  1. Pathetic, self centred and out of touch.
    Exactly how does the pandemic cost the Council more?
    I can see how it costs them less.
    No staff needed at the front counter since it is closed.
    Library closed.
    Work gangs reduced.
    200 office staff busy?
    Our precious Council is focussed on “inappropriate risk to the organisation as a result of too many unqualified variables”.
    How about the risks to ratepayers of financial hardship, stress and domestic violence?

  2. And what a council it is. A bunch of indecisive political wannabes with diverse agendas accountable to no-one, the least of which is the ratepayer.
    How about you clean up the grass infested parts of South Tce and adjoining streets? Then perhaps you could do something to mitigate the massive dumping of rubbish on the town’s outskirts. Putting a few signs up along the Todd walkways to deter idiot motor bike riders from potentially maiming a walker or pedal bike operator would be a good idea, but all that’s mundane, isn’t it, not worth a mention at your so called meetings.

  3. @ Litmus: The Council neglects important things but then carries out other works that are completely unnecessary, wasteful of our rates and cause inconvenience.
    For example, the Council has painted yellow lines around a court in Eastside, making it illegal for any of the residents to park in front of their homes at any time.
    So parking on the nature strip and footpaths by residents, visitors and tradies is commonplace.
    But why make a court a no standing zone?
    A new rubbish truck driver found a vehicle hard to negotiate, Council notified the owner and the issue was resolved.
    But two weeks later after no more problems the Council painted the yellow lines creating a no standing zone in a court where there was already a shortage of parking spaces.
    So for the 10 minutes a week that the rubbish is collected the court is off limits for street parking in front of residences 24/7.
    Convenience for the Council appears to rate far higher than consideration of ratepayers.
    The decision to not reduce rates is just another example of this.

  4. @ Ralph Folds. That is appalling.
    Who wants to live in a court where it is illegal to park on the street?
    What about property values?
    I would think that the Council has reduced property prices.
    Could the residents get together and take legal action?
    At the very least demand cheaper rates on the basis of the Council downgrading property values?

  5. @ Corinne Milich: Thanks for those suggestions. I did write to the Council about it but there was no response.

  6. The Alice Springs Town Council is a bloated and costly organisation. Their failure to provide any COVID-19 relief in a timely fashion reveals this. I say forget about it now and work on reducing costs and therefore rates in future.
    The size of ASTC payroll must be looked at.
    Who ever was the brainchild of the hideous lights on Hartley St has a lot to answer for and is clearly trying to justify their job.
    There is perfectly good power grid available without having to utilise unsightly solar installations. I understand that the ASTC is on a solar crusade, but in this instance, the $192,000 lights simply are not appropriate. The visual impact is too great a cost for saving the small amount of power that LED lights use.
    The parking on Parsons street which used to be convenient for running into the Post Office or the all too common visit to report crime at the Police Station has now been made parking for Police vehicles only. ASTC: These parks belong to your rate payers. Stealing these parks from your electorate and giving them to the NT Government does nothing for the community’s safety or reducing of crime and is only worsening the community’s parking problems.
    Is their any community consultation in this place?

  7. @ Interested Darwin Observer. Agree on the hideous solar lights.
    They remind me of third world countries where cities have a tangle of ugly lighting and power infrastructure.
    So how does the council make decisions on the use of our rates?
    I get the impression that there are different factions that take it in turns to get their way.
    The factions are polarised and focussed on their own issue.
    The ugly lights would be Jimmy Cocking’s brainchild.
    The others would have agreed to them to satisfy the green faction and supporters.
    Jimmy may then agree to something else that another faction proposes.
    This is not unusual in any group but there is one big problem.
    Were the interests of ratepayers considered?
    I do not want ugly lights that turn our town into an eyesore.
    We rely on tourists so our town has to look attractive.
    Expense is important to me because our rates are sky high and have increased at a high rate for years.
    These lights are much dearer than alternatives and save almost nothing.
    Similarly turning cul de sacs into no standing zones is detrimental to our town and wasteful.
    The council will not cut rates, all the factions agree with that.
    It seems there is no faction that supports ratepayers.
    The council needs a review and a culture change that puts ratepayers front and centre.
    Or vote them all out and replace with ratepayer focussed councillors and mayor.

  8. The ASTC hasn’t cared for the ratepayers since the ’80s,so why should they start now!
    Unsure what their agenda is, but time for a stiff broom.
    BTW the lights may be of benefit but a panel on each pole looks extremely ugly.
    The canopy should be of trees not solar panels.

  9. @James – I can assure you that these lights were not my idea. I’d prefer to look at traffic and pedestrian flows across the whole CBD and make recommendations on some changes to the direction of traffic (eg. one way down Hartley and Bath), supporting safer cycling and ensure walkways, lighting, shade and pedestrian crossings aligned to a unified vision for the town. Solar is a sensible path forward for our town and we should be aiming for 100% with gas backup, anything less is wasting our money for the benefit of gas companies. Investing in our CBD and bringing people back will be important for town. Especially how we support our arts and entertainment industry to recover from this crisis and work with them to encourage people to get the confidence to go out again.
    FYI There are no factions in Council. People have shared values and differing values. Sometimes they align, sometimes they don’t. I for one am not a member of any political party.
    I agree, there are questions to be asked about these lights and I am happy to ask them at the next opportunity, which will be next Monday night.

  10. Councillors receive 50k for their self serving input, the Mayor 100k. Not one of them is in any way in touch with the family at number whatever in Smith street The Gap. This is the problem, the third tier of government in this town is self serving and in no way represents the ratepayers’ interests. Sweep them out and give us wards where for 50k an elected candidate will be working in the interest of the ratepayer.

  11. Solar was used as the under ground services are terrible to access. Also it allowed for a quick and simple install.
    Yes they look poor, and have added to visibility issues when driving along, or crossing the street.

  12. So, feels good to go solar right. Try youtube, a film where Michael Moore is executive producer, at the 25.48 or so minute mark it’s explained how silicon is made. When I went to school, I was told by my teachers it comes from sand. Now it seemingly appears they use coal to burn quartz, to make the product needed for solar panels.
    As someone once said, “please explain”

  13. @ Jimmy Cocking: Thanks for agreeing to ask about the solar lights.
    Would you also ask for the no-standing yellow lines stopping all Cassia Ct residents from parking on the street outside their homes to be removed?

  14. @ Jimmy Cocking. Surely you are being disingenuous.
    You advocate and push for solar lighting but say these lights are not your idea?
    Then you make a lot of distracting feel good comments about safer cycling, shade etc.
    Not so fast!
    At best you pushed for but did not choose the especially ugly and costly lights we ended up with.
    But why did you leave this to others?
    As the leading solar lights advocate on the Council you should be doing a lot more than just arguing the case for them.
    No factions in the Council?
    As the CEO of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, member of the influential Alice Springs Water Advisory Board and a Councillor you are regarded as the leader of the Green faction by other councillors and many ratepayers.
    But I am sure you are well aware of your position.
    Time for councillors to level with ratepayers.

  15. @ Corinne: The lights were part of a decision made when the decision to widen the traffic islands were made.
    I questioned why we wouldn’t have pedestrian crossings there.
    The lights were part of the proposed Stage 2 to increase safety at night.
    No councillor that I know saw plans for this after the original decision was made.
    Council has been building light poles with solar long before I arrived on the scene. And as per “Green faction” I am environmentally aware and work towards our town being prepared for climate change and vote on what I believe to be best on a case by case basis.
    @ Litmus: Please send me an email jimmy@abetteralice.com.au in regards to the issues you have raised. And FYI we don’t get paid half that much.
    Thanks and can I recommend to all that emailing councillors if you have an issue. We can liaise with staff and get things done. Facebook and Alice Springs News comments alone do not get the action taken.

  16. @ Jimmy Cocking: “Thanks and can I recommend to all that emailing councillors if you have an issue. We can liaise with staff and get things done.”
    21st April
    Thanks Ralph, I had no idea. I will follow up and see what is going on.
    Kind regards, Jimmy.
    25th April
    Hi Jimmy, Were you able to look into this?
    Regards, Ralph
    ??????

  17. @ Ralph Folds: Are you aware that by painting a solid yellow kerbside line around your court the Council has made it illegal for any vehicle except an ambulance to stop in the court?
    So no parcel deliveries from Australia Post.
    No taxi pick ups, etc.
    These services are now not available to residents in the court.
    But easy for the rubbish collection so it’s all good.

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