A parallel universe

IT’S AS if our shire council exists in a parallel universe where numbers don’t count and anything goes if it can be flogged off for a fast buck.
Take the latest plan to borrow $8 million to build a huge new sport and recreation complex for $23 million near the school when most people just want a pool for far less cost.
Eight million dollars becomes $18 million with interest which will require repayments of $900,000 every year for the next 20 years.
This year’s budget surplus is just $167,000 after our council lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees.
But we’re not allowed to know about that, so let’s pretend it didn’t happen.
How then to repay such a huge debt?
Bingo – let’s sell the showground.
You’d think nobody in their right mind would suggest such a thing but that’s exactly what our shire is quietly thinking.
Our 164-year-old showgrounds are WA’s second-oldest and nestle near the river in one of the most scenic locations you could hope to find anywhere in the state.
The old wooden grandstand is a treasure, and the exhibition hall, pavilions and display sheds evoke a historic past that embodies the charm of Toodyay’s unique heritage.
The shire’s own website says Toodyay “lays claim to some of the most magnificent examples of natural and cultural heritage in Western Australia”. 
Sure the footy changerooms – described by the shire as “renowned as the worst in the league”– need fixing up, and – heaven forbid – “the hockey ladies have to share their changerooms with the football umpires”, but you’d think that could be sorted for a lot less than $18 million.
Then there’s the hockey pitch behind the grandstand which turned out to be an Aboriginal burial ground that lay forgotten for 34 years until local Ballardong people rightly complained that their ancestors’ remains were being disrespected.
Why not move the pitch a short distance to where Sideshow Alley and trade and community tents are set up once a year?
And of course, there’s the bowling green and tennis courts, both of which need resurfacing, and which the shire wants to move to the new sports and recreation complex so it can sell more council-owned land currently leased by those clubs.
It’s amazing really what $570,000 wasted on legal fees could have achieved.
But let’s flog the showground instead, jack up rates – yet again – and maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get a pool too.
Happy Christmas everyone.
Michael Sinclair-Jones

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