At the first meeting for 2020, Bega Valley Shire Council has voted not to proceed with an application to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) for a Special Rate Variation (SRV) to fund the Shire’s six public swimming pools from 2020-21.
Councillors today voted unanimously to abandon any further consideration of an SRV, along with deferring the adoption of the draft Swimming Pools Strategy in line with the recommendation from staff.
Any potential revisitation of these matters will now be a matter for future Councils and would be assessed and determined with the bushfire recovery efforts and progress front of mind.
Given the scope, magnitude and impact of the bushfire disaster and ongoing campaign fires, it was pertinent that Council considered its position in relation to the proposed SRV at the earliest available opportunity. As a result, the matter was brought forward from February.
The community sentiment surrounding the SRV proposal had been mixed through the public consultation periods, and today’s report included the submissions received during the most recent exhibition period, which were majority opposed.
A Council media release stated “With so many individuals and businesses in our community either directly or indirectly impacted by the bushfires, it is absolutely clear that any potential increase in rates would have resulted in an unnecessary burden being placed on our people at one of the most challenging times in our history.”
“This resolution will in turn better enable Council to narrow its focus to supporting the community through the ongoing fires and recovery process and steadfastly pursue the goal of building back better.”
Resolving not to proceed to apply for the SRV does bring ongoing financial impacts for Council, as the intention had been for it to cover the ongoing operating and capital upgrade costs associated with the existing six swimming pools across the Shire.
At this stage the operating costs for the existing six pools will be funded from Council’s General Fund, however the previously adopted goal of maintaining all six pools will need revisiting.
The cost and timing of the capital upgrades for both Bega and Cobargo, scheduled to be completed in the next 10 years, will also require further consideration.
In other news, Candelo Pool, which has been undergoing significant repairs to the pool shell since November 2019, is due to open on Monday 10 February.
Conditions caused by the region’s recent bushfires and subsequent rain has delayed ongoing repairs, however painting has now been completed. This will need a week to cure and the pool will then be refilled and water treated to operating requirements.
Entry to Candelo Pool will be free and the swim season has been extended until the end of April 2020.