Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeIssue 15Night patrol discussion 'commercial in confidence'

Night patrol discussion ‘commercial in confidence’

By OSCAR PERRI

Alice Springs Town Council have received an update on the Traditional Owner Community Safety Patrol (pictured) Pilot Program, though the discussion was held in the confidential session of last night’s council meeting.

When challenged on why debate on the item was not in the open session, Director of Corporate Services Sabine Taylor told Councillors that some information in the report was commercial in confidence, which could allow interested parties to “subvert the actions of the patrol.”

In the meeting a decision was made to extend the program by two weeks, thanks to some further funding received.

There is no allocation of funding for the program to be ongoing in the pending budget, with Mayor Damien Ryan saying last month that if the project is to continue it will only be with Territory or Federal Government funding.

• • •

Councillors Eli Melky, Marli Banks, and Catherine Satour chose to make public their decision to vote against the proposed council budget in the last closed meeting, citing concern with the decision to use reserves to balance the  $3.4m deficit in the budget.

According to the finance report in the last council meeting, council currently has $48,748,397 in the bank, but Cr Melky pointed out that most of this is tied to projects or services, with only $2,986,515 unrestricted, less than the amount needed to balance the budget.

CEO Robert Jennings noted that these numbers are subject to change as money comes in and out, but told Cr Melky that extra money would come out of the reserves allocated to the Aquatic and Leisure Centre, and capital infrastructure, if necessary.

The dissenting councillors asked the CEO to look into measures to save money rather than emptying reserves, suggesting reviews into restructuring staffing, or vehicle and other asset purchases as ways to save without raising rates.

“If you’d like me to fire my staff then that’s something I can look at and consider,” the CEO suggested.

The councillors voiced their disapproval of the comment, and have since further voiced further criticism.

Cr Melky is urging the public to make an effort to review the budget draft and submit comment if they have issues with it. He says that these comments can have a “tremendous” amount of influence on how council uses its money.

“It’s not a popular thing, finances, but it’s very important.

“We need to live within our means, and right now we’re living outside our means, it’s as simple as that.

“I’m not in favour of increasing rates, I’m more in favour of finding ways to be more frugal and finding ways of saving money.”

• • •

Council unanimously endorsed an application to restore the license for iconic Todd Street venue Bojangles.

Councillor Eli Melky said the documents submitted to council was one of the most detailed applications he had seen in his time at council, though the application still needs to go through the NT licensing commission for approval.

He was pleased that the applicant had gone to great lengths to address the impact that a new licensed venue could have on parts of the community vulnerable to alcohol abuse.

The application describes a plan for a outback themed pub, targeting tourists, young professionals and families, serving “upmarket” breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks.

The application proposes opening hours of 6.30am to 2am seven days a week, with the bar open from 11.30am.

The applicant is Pearl Randhay, who has also opened The Locals, formerly Piccolo’s, in Todd Mall.

She has spoken to hundreds of locals and business owners while putting the application together, she says, and understands the concern of some raised about the way the venue had been operated previously. While Ms Randhay wants to restore local pride in Alice Springs venues, it is still early days.

• • •

A decision was made to meet with the Chief Minister’s office to discuss the Kwatja water play park, and come to an understanding about the funding for the project.

This comes after Chief Minister Michael Gunner recently told ABC radio that there was $4m waiting in the bank for the project.

Mayor Ryan was concerned that through these discussions council might be forking out more than necessary from their budget, and voted against the proposal by Cr Banks.

• • •

Council also passed all recommendations from the Cemeteries Advisory Committee.

These include:

• A new tab on the council website, with funeral notices and other events.

• The development of a searchable burial details database online with mapping and GPS capability.

• The purchase of two large television screens and appropriate trolleys for use at large funeral services at the Garden Cemetery Chapel.

• Development of the design and construction of a Niche Wall at the cemetery.

• Extension of all external memberships for the Cemeteries Advisory Committee through until August 2022.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Good to see Bojangles is going to open again. I last visited alice springs 2006. I live in the UK.

  2. Why don’t Council spend money on the Memorial Cemetery in Memorial Drive? Do this up a bit, as a tourist attraction for Namatjira’s grave site, returned soldiers and the pioneers of this town. It is a disgrace.

  3. All I can say that Jennings’s comment “if you’d like me to fire my staff then that’s something I can look at and consider,” is a childlike response, very unprofessional but seems in line with the Council’s arrogance towards being questioned about sensitive topics.

  4. As the Council is and always has been top heavy in management and administration Jennings is on to something.

  5. @ Paul Lewis: It’s obvious that the CEO Jennings does not like being challenged, even by our elected representatives.
    Councillors Eli Melky, Marli Banks, and Catherine were absolutely right to question the decision to use reserves to balance the $3.4m deficit in the budget.
    Reserves are for unforeseen circumstances, emergencies that can crop up from time to time, not used because of overspending.
    For example, if we get an outbreak of Covid-19 here from the Melbourne tourists we could have such an emergency on our hands and need those reserves.
    It is indefensible to use reserves to cover a lack of disciplined spending.
    Eli Melky has earned a few points towards his mayoral candidacy here, we would have a more efficient council under his watch.
    Disappointing that all the elected members were not unified against the use of reserves.

  6. Apparently the Community Development director has resigned and not been replaced as yet.
    Council staff spread thin.
    Councillors seeking election as mayor possibly posturing? Sad! Politics, I guess!

  7. Councillor Melky should apply a more balanced financial view. If the night patrol is keeping local business from being vandalised, and tourists are not frightened to come to Alice Springs to enjoy the scenery and local culture, then money spent on the night patrol is a sensible investment.
    Also, councillor Melky needs to compare the cost of the night patrol with the cost of Tallice, who try to achieve the same outcome.

  8. @ Citizen Kane: For the record, I was in support of extending the patrol to end of July but I was not supported when I suggested a higher budget and an initial 12 month trial rather than the initial few weeks.
    On other financial matters, I will be raising more budget savings options at next opportunity.

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