Rockdale Council: Liberals ‘holding ratepayers to ransom’

admin | 杭州桑拿
7 Aug 2019

Stymied: Rockdale Mayor Shane O’Brien says the money from the car park sale will be used to pay for a $35 million aquatic centre and a $17 million library. Photo: John VeageA mayor has accused his political opponents of holding him to political ransom, after they have repeatedly walked out of meetings in an attempt to stop a $50-million carpark sale.
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Rockdale Council has received an offer of $48 million for its Chapel Street car park, significantly more than its book value of $12 million, mayor Shane O’Brien  said.

But on Wednesday night, council’s six Liberals and one independent did not attend the meeting to approve the sale. It was abandoned due to a lack of quorum.

It is the sixth time that this has happened since September, councillors said – and every time it has coincided with the car park sale being on the agenda.

“I wouldn’t mind if they just voted it down,” Cr O’Brien said. “But for some reason they’re walking out or not showing up. They’re trying to create a sense of crisis and holding ratepayers to ransom.”

The mayor says the money – worth about two-thirds of council’s yearly income – would be used to pay for two major planned pieces of infrastructure: a $35 million aquatic centre and a $17 million library.

Council voted unanimously for the library, construction of which will soon be underway,  and a motion to invite businesses to tender for a new aquatic centre passed without opposition in May.

The old, leaking Bexley pool has been closed.

“I’m a union official, for Christ’s sake,” Cr O’Brien said. “I should be sticking it up business. But they may have spent $60,000 preparing these tenders. This is not how you conduct yourself in negotiations”.

The council is finely politically balanced, with four independents, five ALP members and six Liberals.

No Liberal members of Rockdale council returned calls from Fairfax, including Liberal power broker and soon-to-be candidate for the NSW upper house, Peter Poulos.

Cr Petros Kalligas responded to questions via email and said that members of his party were acting within the rules.

“Mayor O’Brien’s [$40 million pool] plan is being paid for with fire sales and is financially unsound,” he said. Cr Kalligas said the Liberals would prefer a cheaper renovation of the existing pool.

When asked why the party simply did not vote against the proposal, Cr Kalligas said: “The council needs to heal. We have lost confidence in Mayor Shane O’Brien who is determined to act against the interests of the community.”

Allan Wight, the head of the local chamber of commerce condemned the councillors’ tactics: “Residents gave a vote to these people to represent them. It seems they [only] want the dollars spent during their turn [in office]”.

Rules demand only that councillors attend every third meeting. Even when they do attend, they are not required to stay.

The mayor said that the council’s general manager has filed a complaint with the Division of Local Government. It was unable to respond by deadline.

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