Council: Warbirds, zoom meetings and toilets

Filed in Just In by June 9, 2021

LAST night the Upper Hunter Shire Council held an extraordinary meeting where it approved a modification to the Warbirds Terminal, decided on a timeframe to move back to in-person meetings and changed one of the four projects to be considered for Stronger Country Communities funding.

Mayor Maurice Collison and councillors James Burns, Ron Campbell, Kiwa Fisher and Lorna Driscoll were in attendance, with apologies accepted from Cr Sue Abbott and Cr Lee Watts.

Forgotten fire plan

In January, Council approved to spend $1 million towards developing a fire management plan for the Warbirds Terminal after it neglected to include one in the original designs. (See: Forgotten fire plan: $1million cost).

Council said the original designs, “made the assumption that the aircraft would be hangared empty of fuel, which eliminated the need for fire management systems”.

Amended Warbird Terminal plans with included water tanks and pump station (right). Photo supplied by Upper Hunter Shire Council.

The altered development application for the Warbird Terminal has since returned to Council, with modifications to include:

  • Installation of two, 480 kilolitre colorbond steel water tanks, with a diameter of 7.50 metres and height of 12.5 metres to service the fire suppression system;
  • Construction of an ancillary pump room.

During the meeting, Councillor Campbell commented, “it is a safety requirement that somehow we’ve overlooked, but it needs to go ahead.”

Farewell zoom

Councillors now have more restrictions when it comes to attending meetings online via zoom link, with all councillors to move back to in-person meetings by December 31.

Amendments made to the Local Government Act 1993 permitted Council to virtually attend meetings and live stream them for the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On March 25, Council’s were provided an option return to in-person meetings however, this was not a mandatory option and Upper Hunter Shire councillors continued to occasionally attend meetings via zoom.

Council has now voted to implement the following:

  • Limit the number of councillors permitted to attend remotely at any one time;
  • A notification period of five business days for online attendance and notices of motion;
  • Expand/reduce the reasons for remote attendance;
  • Zoom background not to be computer generated image, must be actual background.

The new ‘Meeting Code’ states remote attendance will only be permissible in a limited range of circumstances such as ill health, disability, carer responsibilities or natural disaster and must be approved by Council.

Cr Fisher wanted to clarify what timeframe councillors will have to submit Notices of Motion.

General Manager Greg McDonald said the timeframe is up to Council’s discretion and if five days is considered acceptable, Council will move to accept that timeframe.

Cr Campbell said the sooner Council gets back to face-to-face meetings, the better. “It still means that if there are exceptional circumstances, it can be done,” Cr Campbell said.

Toilets replace fencing

At the May monthly meeting, Council approved four projects to be considered for funding under round four of the Stronger Country Communities Fund.

The projects were: 

  1. Up to $600,000 to resurface the Scone Tennis Courts to make them multi-purpose and the construction of a new club house;
  2. $175,000 to refurbish the Scone Pool change room and office facilities, including first aid/rest facilities;
  3.  $120,000 to fully fence Murrurundi’s Wilson Memorial Oval;
  4. $120,000 to refurbish the Merriwa Swimming Pool change room and office facilities, including first aid/rest facilities.

Mr McDonald said council staff have been given a “fairly clear indication” that the Murrurundi fencing project would not fit the funding criteria and would be unlikely to receive funding.

“We still have a little bit of time to put forward another project but we don’t have time to bring it back before Council before the June 25 cut off,” explained Mr McDonald.

Two replacement projects were put to Council including upgrading the toilet facilities at Murrurundi’s Rosedale Complex and a portable grandstand for the King of the Ranges event. 

Cr Campbell asked if an additional toilet facility at the Rosedale Complex would meet the needs of the community during the King of the Ranges event, without Council having to bring in additional portaloo facilities. 

Mr McDonald explained the current submission is for the existing toilet facilities to be upgraded, not expanded.

“My assumption is they wouldn’t be suitable for large events, we’d still need to supplement them with other toilets. Other alternatives you could consider is building a new ablution block in addition to the existing ones and only open the existing ones in large times but they are in fairly poor condition I’ve been led to believe, so they may not last much longer,” Mr McDonald said.

“The alternative for that is we could build a larger set of toilet blocks, but I don’t have an estimate at my finger tips, we’ve pulled this together fairly quickly within the last 24 hours based on the advice from the funding body,” he said.

Cr Campbell said he would support building a larger block, “because of the need and that is a permanent fixture ,which will overcome the problems in the future. We don’t know the costing of [it], which is a bit if a disadvantage.” 

Cr Burns said given the limited timing, he would move the original recommendation to replace the existing toilet facilities. The motion was carried.

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