MOs face $525 sewerage bill
By WILL JACKSON
RICHMOND Valley Council yesterday voted to implement a sewerage charge of $525 a year for each unit or flat on multiple occupancies.
The council will also implement a $215 'water availability charge' for each flat or unit.
Before yesterday's decision multiple occupancies were treated as single residences.
The council recently voted to increase the sewerage charges for residential properties from $418 to $700.
Instead of charging multiple occupancies the full $700 per unit or flat, the council took into consideration the size of the increase and deemed it appropriate to only apply a rate of $525 for the 2005/06 financial year.
Louise Sharpe, who owns a multiple occupancy with 11 units, was disappointed with the increase.
"I think they've tried to pit unit owners against residents," she said.
"I believe my rates are unfair, but I also believe everyone elses are unfair. If they really want to be fair, they should charge people for what they use."
She said in the short-term she would be forced to increase rents and may consider selling up.
Only two councillors, Ray Jeffery and Norma Thomas, voted against the motion.
Cr Jeffery said while he didn't oppose the new charges he disagreed with the lack of community consultation.
"My real concern is that we've conducted this whole process without any public meetings," he said outside the council chambers.
"I want the mayor, the general manager, and the rest of the councillors to go out there and face the people."
He said the council should phase in the sewerage charge increases.
"It's too much too soon and without proper public consultation."
Around 30 members of the public attended the extraordinary council meeting that followed a closed-doors workshop.
At several points during the meeting residents interjected.
Glynnes Courte, the secretary of the Casino Ratepayers and Residents Association, attended the meeting.
"I was just there to see what the council's decision was. They'd already made it behind closed doors," she said.
Last week, the newly-formed association passed a motion of no confidence in the council over its handling of the sewerage charge increases.
"I think the sewerage charges are way too much, too immediately," Ms Courte said.
"It's a huge rise and it was a surprise it came so suddenly."
Casino resident Paul Fletcher said people were concerned about the council's workshops.
He said deals were being done behind closed doors and the council should be more transparent in its dealing.
"When they do have meetings, the decisions have already been made," he said. "We want the Minister for Local Government to come here and have a look at what the council's doing."
The new charges are to pay for upgrades to the shire's sewerage infrastructure.