Paths 'look nice' but budget must tackle bigger problems
ROADS and rates may drive council spending, but one resident says our local government budget has bigger issues to confront.
Warwick resident Timothy Scheele said a $5.5 million reduction in infrastructure spending was a step in the wrong direction when Southern Downs councillors locked in their 2018-19 budget yesterday.
The third budget delivered by this current council puts Southern Downs in a better financial position than previous years.
But while high-visibility items like streetscapes and footpaths "look nice", former water treatment worker Mr Scheele said the council had problems under the surface.
As decades-old infrastructure around the region continues to age, Mr Scheele said the council's focus should be smarter spending on existing assets.
"You need to spend money on stuff that is going to make you money," Mr Scheele said.
"We don't need to spend money on things like bike paths or the statue of a fish.
"The community sees those jobs getting done and see it looks all nice but they are not getting the full story."
Public visibility was driving the agenda of projects such as streetscapes and footpaths, according to Mr Scheele.
"When there is a pipe underneath the ground that needs to be replaced, people don't really see it."
The council has allocated $150,000 for the Condamine Riverwalk, $160,000 to renew parks around the region, $160,000 to enhance public toilets and $125,000 for cycleways.
But major infrastructure upgrades have made their way into the sizeable capital works program, valued at a total of $36.46million.
This includes a $2 million replacement of Palmer bridge in Freestone, $1million for gravel road re-sheeting across the region and $750,000 for the extension of the Stanthorpe Industrial Estate.
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said a reduction in capital works spending was due to a $7 million commitment to repairing roads under the Queensland Reconstruction Authority betterment program.
"We have had to take out some of the capital works that we would have liked to do because staff only have so much capacity," Cr Dobie said.
"You just can't manage that many projects at one time."
The mayor said the council budget struck a balance between working towards long-term financial sustainability, delivering value-for-money services and investing in the region's liveability.
"We're investing in our future by upgrading and improving key assets including water, wastewater and waste infrastructure."
Mr Scheele commended the council on its $960,000 investment for SCADA and Telemetry renewals and upgrades, to monitor water flows and detect leaks and blockages.
"When you look into what the council is doing, it's not too bad," he said.
"But they really need to focus on the bigger issues, not just the perception jobs."
KEY CAPTIAL WORKS:
$6.56m for the Storm King Dam water trunk main (QRA) in construction
$2m for the Palmer Bridge replacement, Freestone
$1.25m for the rehabilitation of Goomburra, Freestone and Sundown Roads
$1m for the resealing of roads across the region
$650,000 for sewer relining across the region
$590,000 in improvements to the Warwick Aerodrome
$173,000 in works to the region's cemeteries