Council meeting was still one short

The vacant seat at last week’s council meeting, left.

MEMBERS of the public hoping to see the newest councillor in action at last week’s Derwent Valley Council meeting were disappointed to find that the elected member of the moment would not be present.

“Obviously Cr Salt is an apology, she already had pre-arranged commitments prior to [her election] but she will be at the Molesworth meeting next month,” Cr Evans said at the start of the monthly meeting in the New Norfolk Courthouse last Thursday night.

Acting general manager Mark Eady informed the meeting that New Norfolk resident Anne Salt had been elected as a councillor on a recount following the resignation of Cr Damian Bester on February 28.

Mr Eady said Mrs Salt had been sworn in as a councillor on April 6. “Mrs Salt has been elected as a councillor to serve until the 2018 ordinary election,” he said. “The acting general manager administered the making of the declaration of office by Anne Salt – Councillor Anne Salt – on Friday the 6th of April, 2018.”

This announcement sparked some muttering in the public gallery, with many having expected the new councillor’s declaration of office to take place in public at a council meeting as has been the past practice at the Derwent Valley Council.

The mayor then made a presentation to former councillor Damian Bester in recognition of his eight years of service on the council. “You have been on council nearly as long as me,” Cr Evans said. “I know that changes in your employment have made it that you can’t be here … you would have loved to have seen your term out but this is a token of our appreciation from the councillors and staff for your contribution that you have made to this community.”

The 145-page open council agenda (plus attachments) was dealt with in 90 minutes including public question time. Anne Stephenson asked about the recent removal of abandoned car bodies from the top of Collins Cap Rd and whether this was a council initiative. The question was taken on notice. Albert Stephenson questioned the audio recording of meetings and the availability of draft minutes of meetings and this question was also taken on notice.

Business operator and former councillor Wayne Shoobridge made a statement about concerns over the council’s role in the implementation of the High Street Market and asked about insurance for stallholders and the market’s impact on jobs in High St, stating that there had been two or three job losses and more than five Saturday shifts that are no longer available. Mr Shoobridge said he supported the market but implored the council to take these concerns into consideration before deciding on the future of the market. He also commented on the provision of qualified advice by the acting general manager and asked when a promised economic impact survey of High St businesses would be tabled. Responding to Mr Shoobridge, Cr Evans said the information was in the current council agenda.

Diane Cowburn followed-up on her question to the last council meeting about two very-longstanding “temporary jobs” at the council and said the response provided by the acting general manager amounted to filibustering. Mrs Cowburn said her question was not about individuals but whether two specific jobs were to be advertised. “It’s still staffing matters,” acting general manager Eady said, sotto voce, before the mayor responded that  staffing matters were in the remit of the general manager who had the power to appoint staff in line with the budget. “That’s the same old same old, you’ve just dished up the same answer,” Mrs Cowburn protested before being cut off by the mayor. “That’s my answer,” he said.

Former mayor and MP Tim Morris followed-up on a previous question about fire abatement procedures in the municipality and asked whether the council had a policy and/or practice of abiding by its own fire abatement policy. Council officer Richard Blackwell took the question on notice. The next statement and question was from Len Butterworth who asked whether the council would be seeking restitution over delays in recent planning matters in High St and at Magra. Acting general manager Mark Eady said he would not answer the first part of the question which related to alleged fraud, and in respect to the second part of the question there had been no additional costs incurred. Mr Butterworth said he was not satisfied with the response.

In business before the council, it was resolved to cease the 30-minute public open sessions at council workshops; community grants totaling $8568 were approved; planning fees of $1776 paid by the Derwent Pony Club were reimbursed; a revised policy on councillor allowances, expenses and entitlements was released for public comment; fees for dog registrations for the 2018/19 financial year were adopted; a statement on council values was adopted; the operators of the High St Market were approved to continue the market while a process is developed to see expressions of interest in running the market; the senior management report was accepted; and the mayor announced that he would be absent from the May council meeting.

Councillor questions without notice included Cr Belcher asking about the grading of Daniels Rd and the reconstruction of Nicholson St; and Cr Graham asked about a signage audit that was mooted some time ago. The meeting then broke for refreshments before going into a closed session to discuss the “Oval Buildings” at Willow Court; a “mayoral claim”; swimming pool summary; and the closed senior management report.

Following the closed meeting, the mayor announced the following outcomes of that meeting: the report on the Oval Building had been “noted”; the mayoral claim was “determined”; the swimming pool summary was “noted”; and the closed senior management report was also “noted”.

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