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Proposed Warragul outdoor pool narrowly survives challenge

A MOTION to reverse the Baw Baw Shire Council’s decision to build a new outdoor pool in Warragul was narrowly defeated yesterday; however development will be delayed for new costings to be calculated.

At yesterday’s council meeting, councillor Julie Grant motioned the decisions made at the previous council meeting relating to the Warragul Leisure Centre’s redevelopment be revoked, and an analysis of the cost of an alternative option, which does not include an outdoor pool, be undertaken.

Councillors Julie Grant, Tony Wolfe, Mel Neil and Adam Tyson voted for Cr Grant’s motion, while councillors Bill Harrington, Peter Kostos, David Balfour and Tricia Jones voted against it.

Mayor councillor Diane Blackwood was not present at the meeting, leaving a hung vote with acting Mayor Cr Jones taking the deciding vote.

The decision to approve the WLC’s redevelopment was passed five votes to two on the 14th of March, with councillors Adam Tyson and Tony Wolfe not present at the meeting.

The concerns of the councillors supporting yesterday’s motion focused on the need to fund other infrastructure projects around the shire, and the idea the project could “bankrupt” the council.

“I’m bringing this issue back to the chamber because the financial and social ramifications of getting this wrong will blight our Council’s reputation [and will not meet the needs of the community],” Cr Grant said.

“Why is it apparently not acceptable to expect Warragul families to drive 10 minutes to Drouin for a swim while we are asking them to drive 20 minutes to Neerim South or Longwarry every day to take their children to kinder?”

Many supporting councillors spoke of the need to upgrade indoor facilities, including the hydro and program swimming spaces.

Cr Tyson said he is “disappointed” with the council’s decision and the move could “bankrupt” the council.

“This has the danger of virtually bankrupting council,” Cr Tyson said.

Cr Kostos said the suggestion is unfounded as no reports on the project’s cost have been made.

“I believe it is an unjust comment… to create fear in the community,” Cr Kostos said.

Councillors speaking against the motion compared the project to the West Gippsland Arts Centre, with Cr Balfour saying the project would be one of the council’s greatest achievements.

“If we go out and [complete this project well], three years down the track people will come up and tell us it’s the best thing we’ve ever done, just as they now do for the Arts Centre,” Cr Balfour said.

Cr Harrington also argued demand for outdoor pools will increase with Warragul’s population.

“In years to come this pool will be used both summer and winter… because there will be so many people living in Warragul,” Cr Harrington said.

A second motion, made by Cr Neil, asked the council to support delaying work so the redevelopment project chosen by council could be costed.

“This motion is designed just to allow us to take a breath and have all the information on the table [to] really determine the financial viability of the council [as it heads down this path,]” Cr Neil said.

The second motion passed seven votes to one, with Cr Balfour voting against it.

A key vote in both motions was that of Cr Wolfe, who has previously removed himself from decisions on the redevelopment due to a conflict of interest with his position as a director on the West Gippsland Health Group board.

Cr Wolfe said the consulting suites he is involved in have been removed from the decision making process, and has been advised he is now able to vote.

The motion to revoke the council’s decision on the redevelopment raised concerns itself, with Cr Kostos arguing the council should stick by its decision.

“This motion undermines the duty of council. It is immoral,” Cr Kostos said.

“It has always been my belief that council [stands by its decision.]”

“I believe this motion is setting a bad example for future councils.”

Cr Grant said the motion should be taken seriously.

“I don’t bring a motion like this lightly,” Cr Grant said.

Cr Grant said the project “has not properly been assessed.”

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