MERCIFULLY, LAST month’s Toodyay Shire Council meeting was brief – boring and predictable as usual, but brief.
Legal costs: For openers, Toodyay Progress Association Chair Larry Graham asked five questions about the cost to ratepayers of the recently settled WA Supreme Court action against former Toodyay shire CEO Graham Merrick and former shire president Charlie Wroth.
The questions were on notice and did not seek disclosure of confidential matters settled between the parties.
However, Shire President David Dow said he needed to get more legal advice before he could provide an answer at the next council meeting on March 28.
Sooner or later, someone is going to have to explain what a pig’s breakfast the shire has made out of this costly fiasco.
Missing duo: Questions were also asked about the sudden and unexplained departure of two key shire executives – works manager Les Vidovich and his partner, corporate services manager Cherie Delmage, both highly skilled professionals with a wealth of corporate knowledge and well-regarded by ratepayers and shire employees.
Mr Vidovich left without notice after the shire’s November meeting, and Ms Delmage was gone by January.
Ratepayers may recall that Ms Delmage was left to fix last October’s ‘unlawful’ rates mess while Shire CEO Stan Scott was away on long service leave.
There was no public announcement of their departure, no farewell collection, gift or party and certainly no gold watches, leaving shire works depot employees mystified and others scratching their heads.
President Dow said both had provided “good service” and he “wished them well”, begging the question why didn’t he say so at the time instead of having to be prompted by a question to council three months later.
He said “the timing of their departure was unrelated to the day-to-day operations of the shire” but when asked if it was to do with any other shire operations, he handballed the question to Mr Scott, who said there would be “no further comment” because it was confidential.
Returning to the agenda, the council’s first task was to direct Mr Scott to continue working on a shire sewerage policy.
Councillors then noted the January payments – including another $23,087.62 of Toodyay ratepayers’ money to Perth law firm Civic Legal – accepted the monthly financial statements and, adopted a communication “framework” document.
Turkey talk: Councillors were told “the shire has recognised the need to implement an intentional methodology to its communication approaches both internally and externally”.
I suppose this is slightly more comprehensible than “risk appetite” or “an informing strategy” but why can’t the authors of this meaningless gobbledygook use simple, everyday language that everyone can understand, especially for a ‘communications framework’?
Report author Stan Scott ploughed on regardless, saying “I intend to use this document for communications, which haven’t been as good as I would like”.
“We will learn by doing it and evolve by working with it,” he said.
Here’s a tip from the Communications 101 handbook – use plain English, say what you mean and don’t try to hide stuff that’s only going to get found out anyway.
And now for the good news.
Anzac backflip: The council has done a neat 180-degree backflip by bowing to public pressure and doing something sensible for a change.
The two Anzac Memorial Park trees earmarked last year for destruction at the corner of Clinton Street and Anzac Avenue are to remain – at least until the council decides otherwise – and heavy-haulage trucks won’t be re-routed down Stirling Terrace, which was proposed last year as a hare-brained alternative to axing the trees.
The council agreed instead to work harder to get money for a proper heavy-haulage bypass route, which it should have been doing all along instead of threatening protesters with arrest and putting Toodyay – and local coppers – at risk of national TV news exposure for all the wrong reasons.
Starship update: The Bat also attended a very interesting soiree laid on last month by the Toodyay Chamber of Commerce and Industry at which Mr Scott was guest speaker.
Mr Scott said the level of trust in the council was very low when he arrived in Toodyay from Perenjori in 2012.
However, according to Mr Scott, the ship has been turned around and things are now going splendidly with a new car park in Charcoal Lane, tourist information bay, entry statement and extended skate park.
He said Toodyay doesn’t have a public swimming pool because people 50 years ago had a river to swim in.
How odd then that residents in Northam, York and Beverley have the same river – and for many years have also enjoyed well established public swimming pools.
Beam me up Scottie – I think we’re on different planets.