Council's shortcomings, dogs at the market, rates, even the location of Katherine's CBD occupied the minds of writers to the Katherine Times over the past week.
List of council embarrassments
The yearly rates accounts for our properties have arrived in the mail.
I wonder why we bother to pay these, in the last three years we have had rate rises only to see the money wasted on incompetence.
Some examples in the last three years.
1. Katherine Hot Springs.
At first attempt a $90,000 consultant was hired out of Perth (I think we have consultants in the territory) the original design was not adhered to so as to save money, the quantities of rock materials was reduced the rock baskets were inadequate, first flood (not even a large flood) the project was a disaster.
Second attempt now under construction $3.5m to complete we are told that no ratepayers funds will be used on this project so $1.5m has been reallocated from the CBD upgrade to the Hot Springs Project though, but London to a brick some creative accounting will happen.
2. CBD upgrade
Some people on the inner sanctum of the council decided they wanted a vision of what Katherine could be planned to look like in 20 to 30 years time.
An architect was consulted to produce drawings, murals and a video on appraising the material and hearing the cost $400,000 for this I was left dumb founded and angry at the blatant waste of ratepayers money, the only comment I could come without swearing was that both parties must have been on some good happy tobacco.
Again, the solution could have been simple and cost effective. A couple of council office staff (of which there are plenty) could have hit the street with clipboards canvasing ideas from shop owners and citizens or on Facebook.
Cost, a couple of weeks wages for two staff, a further four weeks correlating the suggestions and ideas contacting the local newspaper to print the ideas asking for suggestions and improvements, even if this cost was $50,000 it would still have been cheaper by a long way.
This version would cost the ratepayers in 20 years around $150m.
In 1988 a similar idea was proposed not much of this has been acted on.
3. Tyre disaster.
Old tyres stored between the back of the showgrounds and speedway this has been a disaster waiting to happen with the existing fire break pre fire not even able to stop a garden fire on a still day and not maintained.
Now with fire through the tyres, Council have a clean up bill of between $580,000-$600,000 to remove the earth and cover of those old burned tyres.
The initial cost when the tyres were first placed there should have been the hire of a dozer and a grader to clear a 50 metre fire break around the area at a cost of about $5000 with twice yearly break maintenance.
It escapes me why the tyres were not shipped off to recyclers when a road train load was made up.
The old tyres at the dump now should be shipped off.
4. Civic Centre trees.
An arborist was hired from Darwin to travel to Katherine inspect the trees write a report that the trees were eaten out. A local pest control person could of did the same job at a fraction of the cost. The cost of removing and chipping these trees would have been around $80,000
Not only this council but previous administration could have prevented the infestation if the advise given when the first trees were planted was to have the trees inspected yearly and treatment applied against termites.
5. Example waiting to happen
Between the Victoria Highway and showgrounds up to Murray Street there is a vacant block the council has earmarked for showground expansion.
It was cleared and grubbed, water reticulation put in and trees planted three years ago, then forgotten.
Now it is an overgrown fire hazard waiting to happen especially to the private building in the area.
The council have there own tractors and slashers so the works supervisor should be right onto this set up. A program to have this area with other council assets slashed twice a year, preventive maintenance is the best and most cost effective measure.
The other area is across the Vic Highway from the Riverview Caravan Park along Bovril St around behind the Recycling yard, the wrecking yard along Murray St to the read of the Showgrounds to Bicentenary Road this may be Crown Land but needs a controlled burn off.
The council waste of ratepayer funds in the above failed venture would be around $1.2m that the public know of.
The ratepayers of Katherine have a huge milestone around our neck with the clean up of the old rubbish dump site and the construction of a new facility in two years time.
We have been told the rate rises are essential for this to happen but not so when they spend like drunken sailors.
Jim King Snr, Katherine.
Going to the dogs
On our usual trip to the Lindsay Street Markets on Saturday, September 7, to catch with friends, we were confronted by the sight of a large dog urinating against the table of a stall close to us, as we were eating our food.
This dog was being led by a person involved with the organisation of the markets, and it was quite evident that he had very little control over the dog, as it proceeded to look for food further along its path and repeated the exercise.
It made me wonder what the rules are concerning the actions of dogs in a public area where there is food being served and eaten by small children.
The markets have always been a place of safety, where families gather without having to avoid dog feces on the lawns where children play.
Safety is another issue where smaller children are not aware of the dangers when approaching strange dogs which are often at face height of them.
As a grandmother it concerns me, that the council would overlook the possibilities of these situations on a property under their jurisdiction.
Shirley Ashworth, Katherine.
Recently released figures for land rates and waste management fees in Katherine show substantial increases for the 2019 -2020 financial year.
This follows upon a series of heavy increases over the preceding four years.
The Katherine Town Council calculates rates by multiplying the unimproved capital value of a property, as assessed by the NT Valuer General, by a 'rate in the dollar'.
Unimproved capital values for the new financial year have not altered however the council has increased its rates revenue simply by increasing the 'rate in the dollar'.
Of major concern for Katherine residents is the fact that while property value based rates are increasing, true property values have fallen sharply due to PFAS contamination concerns, with some properties in close proximity to Tindal now considered to be unsalable.
Rates are not determined by the elected members of the council but are set by an executive decision.
The two Chief Executive Officers who have served the Council during this series of rates increases have lived in a council house, hence have not had to pay rates bills, and they are no longer in town.
In mid 2017 the Council CEO acknowledged that there were many anomalies with the unimproved capital values of properties in Katherine and suggested that this matter should be taken up with the Valuer General when he was next in town.
In November 2017 however the Council informed me that the Valuer General was reluctant to come down to Katherine.
Early in 2019 when the Council convened a dedicated rates forum, it was said that there would be another forum with the Valuer General in attendance later in the year. As property values have fallen, it is essential for a forum to be held with the Valuer General present but this has not occurred.
With rates spiraling upward, the Mayoral allowance increasing substantially, property values falling and Council services being cut, it is not surprising that there is a tremendous level of community concern.
Bruce Francais, Katherine.
One street town?
This CBD upgrade is a joke. The CBD extends from Lindsay St to O'Shea Terrace and 4th Street to Railway Avenue. All the focus is on one street.
There are a greater number of businesses operating in the rest of the CBD than the number that are on Katherine Terrace!! They all pay the excessive CBD rates!!
To put parkland the other side of Railway Terrace is not beneficial to the CBD. Firstly, it is not in the CBD, and secondly there are no businesses there.
And what is the problem with the median strip? It is well kept and lovely. The trees are mature and safe, and I have heard many people make compliments about it. And it is not maintained by the Council because it is the Stuart Highway.
In the rest of the CBD there are not even pavements on both sides of the street and some streets have no pavements at all!!! Not much of an incentive for tourists to take a stroll around the town.
To focus on the main street is crazy. Churches, hotels, the cinema, restaurants and a multitude of businesses are being ignored.
The Council does not seem to know where the CBD is. It seems that they do not care.
It would be interesting to know what the terms of reference of the funding are. Because if it is for the CBD, it needs to be spent on the CBD.
I am all for upgrading the river frontage and parkland development by the boat ramp. That area is a wasteland of potholes and mud/dust. There is natural beauty and ample water to make an idyllic picnic and fishing area. People do like to see the river. But our most amenable asset is ignored. Getting some funding for that and any other park land development would be fantastic. But if it is CBD upgrade, then spend it on the CBD!
Dr P.J. Spafford, Katherine.