But to my mind that wasn’t the big news of the night.
The big news for me was that for the first time in quite a few years, there were signs that councillors were prepared to negotiate with each other across party lines.
Cindy Cagney showed a lot of class when she was prepared to twice amend her Notice of Motion to form a heritage committee after some backwards and forward with the mayor and Liberal councillors. If things continue this way, it bodes well for the future. There were a few people who spoke up to support the heritage committee. You can find their statements below where they have been provided.
Meanwhile, the concerns about the controversial new day surgery at 7 Park St, Camden, will have a few more weeks to run after a decision was deferred, so new councillors could inspect the site. My feeling is that it will end up being accepted with the main sticking points being around traffic and how it may affect residents rather than heritage. You can see some of the public addresses by residents for and against the surgery in the main story below.
Some hackles were raised when Cr Eva Campbell suggested the extension of a green recycling service to Ellis Lane, Grasmere and Kirkham was a council cash grap. Cr Peter Sidgreaves was quite adamant this wasn’t the case. Either way, it was passed unanimously.
Finally the forced acquisition of land on the corner of Macarthur Drive and Camden Valley Way is going ahead, so the intersection can be widened and have traffic lights added. If you are interested in the full details of the meeting, you can find them all below.
The public addresses focused on two areas – the proposal for a new day surgery at 7 Park St, Camden, and the establishment of a heritage committee.
I have to say the new set-up for public addresses has a real game show feel, with a looming digital stopwatch projected on the screen counting down the four minutes. All is needs is a loud buzzer and canned applause.
Where I could, I have asked speakers for a copy of their address, so you can read them in full. Those I couldn't get I have paraphrased and highlighted the key points.
There were two mayoral minutes. I have linked to both below.
Innovation Award for Camden Meals on Wheels
The first minute was for celebrating a big win for our local Meals on Wheels group that won the State Service Award for Innovation. You can read all about that triumph on the Camden Meals on Wheels website.
The mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak, praised the group for their work. If I get a copy mayoral minute I'll add that detail.
Cr Eva Campbell also offered her support and had a great story to tell about how Meals on Wheels was such a boon for her Aunty Ina and her mother. I asked for more detail and she forwarded me the response to the right.
Read the full Meals on Wheels mayoral minute below.
Sydney Weekender visits Camden
The second mayoral minute celebrated the arrival of the Sydney Weekender crew who filmed this episode on Camden’s main street. The whole thing had been well organized months in advance by council staff and it deserved to be highlighted as a tourism, marketing and business success.
(In a previous version of this article I suggested the mayoral minute sounded a little to triumphant about the changes to Argyle St. On reading the minutes below, I feel that was an unfair characterisation and that the minute was exactly as it should have been.)
You can read the "official" Sydney Weekender mayoral minute below.
MEALS ON WHEELS
"The idea for the function started after my Aunt, Ina Catherine Margaret Cameron, was invited to Government House when she turned 100 for a function with the Governor.
The Meals on wheels coordinator was Heather Lamberton when the decision to hold an event in Camden was supported by the Board. The initial one was held on Aunty's birthday and she just loved it. Aunty was the longest M on W customer ever as she lived until she was nearly 106.
Last Centenarians' event I was invited to go again and take my mother and that was wonderful. Aunty Ina was Mum's eldest sister.
After starting as a deliverer I was concerned to learn that some clients didn't get out of their homes so I talked with Heather about bringing clients to the CWA rooms by bus for their meal and a social afternoon. This was the seed that became the Little Corner Cafe where it was set up to have people at the M on W premises.
I was a Board member for years until I couldn't make the meetings regularly because of my carer commitments. These days I just deliver meals."
Next up was the report on council finances by Mr Dennis Bannicevic from PWC. There were undoubtedly some impressive results to the bottom line, with the headline being the fact that Camden Council could continue trading for 17 months before becoming insolvement even if all cash flows stopped coming in. The benchmark for NSW councils is 3 months.
Mr Bannicevic also said the new Camden Council Building was the best council building he had seen in his 40 years of working with councils.
Some of the highlights included:
- The budget surplus rose from $85m to $130m this year. Most of that came from S94 payments from developers that was already set aside for proscribed infrastructure and rates.
- The unrestricted income – which the council has discretion over spending was $8m – up from $3.3m in the previous financial year. Working capital was only $3m.
- The recurrent income has yet to cover council costs but there has been a definite improvement in that position. It is expected income will cover these recurrent costs during the next financial year.
- Because so much infrastructure is new, there is less renewal needed than in most council areas. This is why capital expenditure is 11 times as large as depreciation.
There will also be new reporting systems for NSW councils. Any transaction of Camden Council with councillors or management will need to be reported. This also extends to close family members of these executives and councillors. Mr Bannicevic said the council would have to set up systems to report on this in 2017.
Cr Lara Symkowiak noted after the report that Camden Council was ahead of its neighbours as in their most recent reports she said Campbelltown and Liverpool councils were deemed to be “not fit” for the future under the local government guidelines.
She also mentioned that asset renewal would focus on some of the older areas of the Local Government Area – rejuvenating ageing infrastructure.
As noted in the Business Paper report, excess money will shift into reserves.
ORD03: Rates and charges levies written off.
This was accepted by all councillors, although Cr Eva Campbell asked for an amendment.
She noted that the rates rebate for pensioners had been stuck at $250 since 1995. She asked the council to write to the relevant minister suggesting that this rebate be reviewed with the aim of seeing it increased as prices had increased over the past two decades while the rebate had not.
The amendment was passed unanimously.
ORD04: Investment report.
This was as noted in the Business Paper report before the meeting on October 10.
ORD05: Demolition 7 Park St, Camden and construction of a single storey medical centre.
This was expected to lead to a fair bit of discussion following the public addresses. However, the item was deferred.
Cr Cindy Cagney said the reports had arrived Thursday and Friday. Previous inspections had been carried out by councillors and new councillors had not had that opportunity. As such, she said, “I still don’t feel I am in a position to make a fair and encompassing deliberation”.
The council agreed to defer the vote for one to two council meetings until the new councillors had the opportunity to view the property and had a full briefing from council staff.
You can see descriptions of the public addresses in support or opposed to the medical centre by following the link.
The speakers are Dr Ramana Van Katersan (support), Helen Cowell (opposed) and Suzanne Marrapodi (support).
ORD06: Expansion of green waste service to Ellis Lane, Grasmere and Kirkham
There was a little bit of heat around this. While all councillors supported the expansion, Cr Eva Campbell only supported it because there was an opt-out clause for residents. She felt the residents in these areas occupied large enough parcels of land where they could easily recycle their own green waste. She said that she felt this extension was “largely for financial reasons, not environmental reasons”.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves when he supported the expansion, was strident that the extension was the wish of 62% of residents who were surveyed. “There was no financial agenda, this is purely about providing services to our residents,” he said.
The additional costs for green bins in the region increased by between $51.40-$58.40.
Cr Cagney said she was impressed the additional cost required to be paid by residents was kept to such a low level.
This was passed unanimously.
Grants and Business Assurance and Risk Committee.
These were mostly a box-ticking exercise. The grants for Live and Local Music, Block Road Funding and bush regeneration in Gundungurra Reserve were all passed unanimously.
The minutes of the Business Assurance and Risk Committee meetings were also accepted unanimously.
ORD11: Notice of Motion – Heritage Protection sub-committee
Initially, the establishment of a Heritage Protection sub-committee looked to be producing a clash.
But after the proposal was amended by removing the need for it to be a 355 committee and a call for council officers to report back on the best approach this was passed unanimously.
I was impressed by two councillors in particular during this debate.
In the first instance I liked the way Labor councillor Cr Cindy Cagney was prepared to negotiate, in particular with the mayor, to amend the notice of motion so that it was acceptable. Our council has sorely lacked this approach when it was dominated by one party and at odds with large parts of the community during its last term.
Novice councilor Michael Morrison also impressed me by his considered approach during this, at times confusing, discussion. It was good to see him speak up to ask for clarification of the amendments and for them to be rearranged by council officers on the big screen as a result. It’s not easy when you are new to council to pipe up and admit in public you don’t understand the new form of the amendments. It was clear many of the more experienced councillors were relieved when he did.
The final result was for council officers to bring a report to council about the best form for a new heritage committee. This would then be voted on by councillors.
You can find links to the public addresses supporting the sub-committee below. These were provided by the speakers.
ORD12: Meeting closed for acquisition of land at Macarthur Drive and Camden Valley Way, Elderslie.
After the meeting was reopened, the Mayor announced that council had voted unanimously to make an application to the appropriate Minister in the State Government and the Governor of NSW for approval to acquire the land.
As part of the acquisition process, the Valuer General decides the compensation. On completion of the acquisition, the land is transferred to Camden Council and the council pays the compensation to the landowners. The council’s vote also authorised the General Manager to negotiate, if appropriate, an agreed compensation.
This opens the way for the traffic lights and expansion of the intersection.
Our new councillors generally seem to be coming up to speed well. Ashleigh Cagney, Paul Farrow and Michael Morrison are beginning to speak up and are finding their way around the meeting structure.
Rob Mills has yet to make his voice heard and for the most part been an observer at the past two meetings. He is still watching and listening but I’m sure this will change with time