Valley 'residents' rates slug
By HELEN JACK
OWEN Crawford and his wife, Tracey, knew they only had a 50-50 chance of blocking a 10.06 per cent rate rise for Richmond Valley residents. But now that it's actually happened, the husband and wife team are bewildered.
As president and secretary, respectively, of the Casino Ratepayers Association, Mr and Mrs Crawford said they and their committee had put in long hours consulting with residents and preparing a submission to Local Government Minister Paul Lynch.
"We're disappointed but we know we put forward the best case we could and did what we could to stop it or have the increase lowered," Mr Crawford said.
"We even travelled to Sydney to speak to Mr Lynch's advisor Michael Flemming, with our meeting lasting an hour-and-a-half; we came away feeling good."
Mr Crawford said he had phoned Mr Flemming's office to ask why the increase had been approved but was unable to contact him.
Early July the department deferred the 10.06 per cent increase asking council for more information on projects to be funded by the rate hike.
Council supplied that information with the department informing council mid-morning on Wednesday its request had been granted.
Mayor Charlie Cox said the 10.06 per cent increase was the beginning of a six-year plan to 'move away from being a maintenance council'.
"We (councillors and staff) are very pleased to think the minister had recognised the position we find ourselves in," Cr Cox said.
"And it's an indication that the minister supports our long-term planning."
Cr Cox said the extra information related to the Mid Richmond Resident Village in Coraki and council's swimming pools package.
"We see the increase as a platform to embark on capital programs such as roads, parks and gardens, Evans Head Pool and Casino CBD."
Council's request for a 7.5 per cent rate rise each year for the next five years has not yet been granted.