20 Things We Learnt From Council Meetings This Week
As published by The Chronicle on 18th June 2018
JULY was a busy month for the Toowoomba Regional Council, with all departments adopting the new TRC budget and wrapping up their statistics for the previous financial year.
Here is what we learnt from the ordinary meeting, as well as the previous committee sessions last week:
- COUNCIL TO CHARGE FOR ROAD CLOSURE APPLICATIONS
RESIDENTS who apply to have a state-owned road closed will now pay nearly $800 to the Toowoomba Regional Council as a part of a massive statewide overhaul.
The TRC will now be the first point of call for road closure applications in the Toowoomba region, after the State Government quietly pushed the administration process onto councils earlier this month.
The issue, which sparked a fiery debate among councillors in the ordinary meeting yesterday, has been hailed by supporters as putting the council in “the box seat” to control the outcomes and charge accordingly.
- POPULATIONS, DWELLINGS TO BE COMPARED
TOOWOOMBA’s population and dwelling projections will be compared with a draft report from the Queensland Treasury and Government Statisticians Office, which was sent to the council for review last month.
Feedback will be used to refine the final projections for broad areas in the Toowoomba to help plan for the future.
- COUNCIL TO BAN PLASTIC STRAWS… SOON
PLASTIC straws, helium balloons and single-use plastic bottles could be banned from Toowoomba Regional Council events and institutions by the end of the year, following an impassioned plea from Cr Nancy Sommerfield.
The councillors voted yesterday to explore how the TRC could cut non-recyclable items from its events and daily use, as well as revamping its procurement process to include recycling-friendly criteria and policies to contractors.
The amended motion at the ordinary meeting was sparked by Cr Sommerfield’s initial bid to “commit” to cutting out the single-use products.
- BUILDING SURVEYOR WINS TOP STATE PRIZE
LONG-time Toowoomba Regional Council building surveyor Matthew Whittaker was take out a prize at the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors.
Mr Whittaker won an award for professional excellence in the Queensland/Northern Territory chapter of the institute, and will go on to national finals later this year.
Councillors congratulated him during the ordinary meeting yesterday.
- INFRASTRUCTURE CHARGES DROP CAUSES BUDGET SHORTFALL
A LARGE drop in infrastructure charges in the 2017-18 financial year has contributed to a massive shortfall in capital revenue for the Toowoomba Regional Council.
Planning and development general manager Stewart Somers reported in the meeting yesterday that $16 million in charges were collected by the TRC in the past 12 months.
This is down from the $26 million reported in the 2016-17 financial year.
The drop was noted in finance and business strategy general manager Arun Pratap’s monthly financial statement to the councillors, which showed capital revenue was below budget by $16 million, or 26 per cent.
Mr Pratap highlighted infrastructure charges as the primary culprit.
- TOOWOOMBA REGION’S ANNUAL WATER USE REVEALED
RESIDENTS in the Toowoomba region used 14 gigalitres of water during the past financial year.
The statistics were highlighted during water and waste general manager Damian Platts, who also said that pumping from Wivenhoe Dam might occur in the next 12 months.
The region’s dam levels are at a combined 48.2 per cent as of last month.
Residents in Toowoomba City used an average of 191 litres per person every day during 2017-18.
- COUNCIL DONATES $10K TO EARTHQUAKE APPEAL
TOOWOOMBA Regional Council has agreed to donate $10,000 to the disaster relief fund for Toowoomba’s sister city Takatsuki.
On Tuesday morning councillors unanimously voted to support the donation. Deputy Mayor Carol Taylor chaired the vote.
“This terrible disaster in our Sister City has touched our hearts, particularly with the news of the death of the nine-year-old school girl,” Cr Taylor said.
- NEW WATER RESERVOIR FOR WELLCAMP
THE council has started the planning a new 8.2-megalitre water reservoir at Wellcamp, designed to service the Toowoomba Enterprise Hub.
Tenders for a “design and construct” contract closed last month for the project, which would be based off Acton Vale Stud Rd.
Current offers are being considered by the council.
- CONTRACTOR NEEDED FOR EMPIRE REFURBISHMENT
THE Toowoomba Regional Council has put the call-out to all contractors wanting to complete the most significant part of the Empire Theatre’s ambitious $4 million refurbishment.
The council released the tender this week for the second stage of the massive renovation job, which would include the replacement of carpet and seating in the main auditorium and improvements to the north bar and foyer areas.
Cr Geoff McDonald said the value of the tender would be known when a contractor was found.
- DEBATE RAGES OVER AGED CARE FACILITY PROPOSAL
THE decision to cut an aged-care provider’s infrastructure charges for a new retirement home by nearly $450,000 has sparked fierce debate in the council chambers.
Councillors voted 8-3 in favour of reducing charges for the Baptist Union of Queensland’s new 48-hectare retirement facility in Highfields during committee meetings last week.
The proposed Brownesholme Retirement Village was approved by the council in December and hit with a bill of $2.38 million for infrastructure costs.
- COUNCIL ACCEPTS NOTICES OVER ASBESTOS EXPOSURE
THE council has put into place all “improvement notices” that were issued by Workplace Health and Safety inspectors last month.
The breach notices were issued due to problems raised at the Greenmount dump south of Toowoomba by union officials and workers.
Among the breaches included “failing to have a safe system of work in maintaining an environment for workers and others from exposure to asbestos”, failing to have an asbestos register and a lack of barricading of detected asbestos from the public.
Water and waste general manager Damian Platts said all workers at waste transfer facilities now had up-to-date asbestos training.
- TRC TO SAVE $225K THANKS TO ASPHALT THICKNESS CHANGE
A REDUCTION of the thickness of deep-lift asphalt pavement by 15mm will save the Toowoomba Regional Council $225,000 in procurement costs every time the material is needed.
The quantity change, reported by infrastructure services general manager Mike Brady, was introduced by using amendments from the technical notes by Transport and Main Roads.
- WINTER WONDERLAND VISITED BY THOUSANDS
MORE than 21,000 people visited the Toowoomba Regional Council’s Winter Wonderland events over the past month.
Environment and community general manager Nick Hauser said the opening night at the city’s library and civic precinct on June 22 was particularly well attended, with nearly 1900 people.
The winter series was highly-publicised by the council in a bid to improve visitation numbers during what is a slower period for the city.
Winter Wonderland wrapped up on Sunday.
- DIGITAL BILLBOARD FOR MILLS PRECINCT PROPOSED
THE popular Mills Precinct has proposed new signage for the side of one of its buildings, including a digital billboard.
Precinct owner Richard Adams Homes submitted plans for the new signs to the Toowoomba Regional Council last week.
The proposal, slated for the south-eastern side of the building on the intersection of Ruthven and Victoria Sts, included an illuminated “Mills Precinct” logo and a digital billboard to show advertising.
- COUNCIL SMASHES TREE-PLANTING TARGETS
MORE than 3500 trees were planted in the Toowoomba region in the past 12 months by the council, including 171 in June alone.
The numbers were proudly revealed by environment and community general manager Nick Hauser during the ordinary meeting on Tuesday.
The increased planting effort was in response to Tree Planting Services missing its mark in previous years due to drier weather conditions.
- DIRT BIKE FACILITY, CAMPING AREAS PROPOSED
A HIGHLY-controversial proposed dirt bike facility, which had its application costs subsidised by the Toowoomba Regional Council, has been officially submitted to the council.
The planned “off road motorcycle facility, camping ground and caretaker’s accommodation unit” by the Brisbane North Off Road Motorcycle Club at Mt Binga, north of Toowoomba, will also have financial support from the State Government if its approved.
The proposal became a topic of debate in the council chambers in April when Deputy Mayor Carol Taylor questioned why the applicant had received $27,000 in grants from the council to put together its application.
- CONSTRUCTION STARTS ON RAILWAY GOODS SHED
THE redevelopment of Toowoomba’s historic railway goods shed in the CBD has begun.
Environment and community services confirmed the ground works, in-ground services and footing repairs started last month.
The project has been partially funded by the council and the State Government.
- POSSIBLE DRIVE-THROUGH COFFEE SHOP APPROVED
RESIDENTS in Toowoomba’s western suburbs could have another place to pick up drive-through coffee, after the council gave approval for a new store in Wilsonton.
Applicant Sunblend Pty Ltd was given the green light to renovate its building on the intersection of Bridge St and Richmond Dr into a new drive-through store, which was likely to be occupied by a coffee franchise.
Toowoomba Regional Council planning officer Peter Swan was satisfied the 165sq m food and drink outlet, featuring eight car parks, 62sq m of alfresco dining and vehicle access from Richmond Dr, met the planning scheme requirements.
- BIOSOLIDS NEED TRUCKING FROM WETALLA
THE Toowoomba Regional Council needs someone to collect and remove the phosphorus-rich remains of the region’s hardest-working sewage treatment plant.
The TRC released a new tender this month asking for bids from contractors wanting to collect, remove and transport the biosolids created by the Wetalla Waste Water Reclamation facility in Cranley, north of the city.
Water and waste portfolio leader Cr Bill Cahill said the fertiliser created by breaking down 7300 megalitres of sewage every year had big benefits for certain crops, like cotton.
- WORKER COMP CLAIMS REDUCED
THE number of approved worker compensation claims at the council dropped by more than 15 per in the previous financial year.
The new statistics, revealed by finance and business general manager Arun Pratap, also found the number of lots time injuries dropped by 21 per cent in 2017-18.
There has been a 50 per cent reduction in LTIs since 2011.