Council meeting update - 13 September 2022
Tuesday 13 September, 2022
Here is an overview of outcomes from tonight’s Ordinary Meeting:
Councillors voted in support of engaging Public Works from the Department of Regional NSW to project manage the multi-million dollar remediation and refurbishment of Ray Walsh House in Tamworth. Council has been forced to relocate about 280 staff from the five-level building at 437 Peel Street to other office space due to the failure of the air conditioning system. However, the presence of friable asbestos in sprayed Vermiculite fire protection has meant that the air conditioning system could not be replaced until the asbestos containing material is removed. A report to Council described the project to remove the asbestos containing material and fully refurbish the building as “a significant undertaking requiring high levels of expertise and experience”. “Public Works have significant experience and expertise in asbestos removal, building construction and office fitouts, having completed several projects of similar nature in recent times,” the report said. It is estimated the project may take almost three years to complete. The cost of the work will be made public as each phase progresses and will be documented through the usual mandatory financial reports Council must provide.
Councillors have endorsed emergency expenditure to fund costs associated with the relocation of staff from Ray Walsh House to suitable alternate premises. Council will fund the unbudgeted relocation costs from investment revenue over the forecasted amount which is the result of increased interest rates, reallocation of operational budgets due to ceasing services at Ray Walsh House, additional rate income resulting from the additional variation approved by IPART in June, and, use of unrestricted cash that is held for emergency unbudgeted expenditure. A report to Council detailed the four options a multi-skilled project team considered how to relocate staff from the building to then allow the asbestos containing material to be removed and the air conditioning system replaced. The report explained how the option chosen was to relocate staff to council-owned facilities until they were at capacity, and to then use commercial premises where required. This option allows Council to begin the process of remediating Ray Walsh House as soon as possible, while minimising expenses as much as possible, the report said. The forced relocation of staff is budgeted to cost about $2.2 million – this includes work on Council-owned buildings to accommodate staff. From the almost $1 million Council is investing in the commercially leased buildings, about 55 per cent relates to furniture and other equipment that will be retained by Council and reused, the report said. Another significant portion of that amount will be used to upgrade Council-owned buildings. A total of 160 or 60 per cent of Council staff who were based at Ray Walsh House have been moved to Council-owned buildings. There will be 120 staff relocated to commercial buildings. Relocation work started in June and is planned to be completed in October.
Councillors have agreed to allocate $100,000 from the Water Reserve to engage consultants and legal advisers to assist staff in identifying and implementing changes to the administrative process Council follows to supply water to owners of property along the Dungowan Pipeline, both new and existing. The decision was made after Councillors considered a report which explained how during discussion about the most appropriate ownership and operation model for the proposed new Dungowan Pipeline, it became apparent the way water is made available to customers connected to the existing pipeline does not comply with current licensing provisions. As a result, it was concluded that licensing for the ongoing supply of water from the existing and/or new pipeline – if it proceeds – needs to be altered.
As part of ongoing efforts to secure our region’s water supply, Council will make a submission in response to the Draft Namoi Regional Water Strategy. The move follows consideration of a report about the strategy which is on public exhibition until 18 September, 2022. Councillors supported a recommendation for the submission to express how pleased Council is to see the consultation paper highlight the critical importance of addressing Tamworth’s long-term water security risks” as well as providing clear actions where the NSW Government and Council can to work together. It will also identify a key shortcoming of the consultation paper in that it does not highlight the importance of preparing a water security plan for Tamworth in the short term. Council sees that as far as Tamworth’s water security is concerned, the strategy relies on the new Dungowan Dam resolving any water security concerns. Council’s submission will make the point that there is a need for the Namoi Water Strategy to be updated if the new Dungowan Dam does not proceed.
Council will be among a number of NSW councils located west of the Great Dividing Range to take part in an Evaporative Air Conditioner Water Consumption Study. The study will be funded by the NSW Government through the Department of Planning and Environment. During the 2019 drought, Council looked into undertaking a study to better understand the volume of water used by evaporative air conditioners as part of improving its preparedness for future drought. However, due to the cost involved, Council resolved not to proceed with the study. Council staff have since been advocating for the NSW Government to undertake a study. It is estimated that the city of Tamworth has more than 8,000 evaporative air conditioners at residential properties. A high-level analysis has shown that during the summer months daily water consumption in Tamworth, Moonbi and Kootingal can increase by an additional 5 Megalitres each day from the use of evaporative air conditioners.
For more information, see the full reports at www.tamworth.nsw.gov.au/business-papers
Watch the video report at www.facebook.com/TamworthRegionalCouncil