UPPER Hunter Shire Council general manager Steve McDonald has encouraged the community to be open to having the discussion when it comes to introducing a Special Rate Variation (SRV) to fund local projects.
Speaking at the annual Scone Chamber of Commerce budget breakfast this morning, Mr McDonald said $15 million worth of projects have been delayed until additional sources of funding are found due to the SRV being refused by IPART.
He said these projects would still remain high priorities for the community but council would now have to reconsider and review their options.
“My comment, for what it’s worth, is I know we talk about rates and we are in drought, I understand that, but, longer term, do we want to compete for people to move into our community,” he said.
“We are competing with people down the Valley - whether it is Muswellbrook or Singleton and when you have a look at our rates, keeping in mind that Muswellbrook’s rates are subsidised by half by the mining community, we have the cheapest land rates in the Valley substantially.
“If we want a high level of service we are going to have to fund it somehow and that’s definitely one of the options we are going to consider.
“We need to have an open discussion about it because if we stay the way we are this is the level of service we are going to get.
“We can make some minor improvements but there won’t be any larger improvements and this is where as a community we need to work out who we want to be.”
While making a presentation on council’s 2018-19 budget during the breakfast, Mr McDonald outlined some of the investments it contained for the Upper Hunter including $6.5 million towards a major upgrade of the Willow Tree Road; a pipeline from Glenbawn Dam to Murrurundi; $7.4 million towards the upgrade of the Scone Regional Saleyards; $5.4 million towards an Aviation Visitor Attraction Centre at Scone Regional Airport; the Cassilis Sewerage Scheme and improvements to Scone’s Bill Rose Sporting Complex due to the Scone Bypass.
With 25 per cent of the bridges in the Upper Hunter timber, replacement of the Cameron’s Bridge and Omadale Brook Bridge also figured in, as well as upgrades to the Scone Water Treatment and Sewer Treatment Plant.
Murrurundi’s Wilson Park is set to receive a $500,000 facelift, while projects in Merriwa including improvements to the Merriwa Oval, upgrades of the Merriwa Skate Park, toilets and tennis court upgrades have been put on hold.
While the $10.2 million town revitalisation project has also been pushed back, Mr McDonald and Mayor Wayne Bedggood will meet with State Roads Minister Melinda Pavey at Macquarie Street in Sydney today to discuss Scone’s main street.