TWO councillors down, and with the general manager on leave, tonight's Derwent Valley Council meeting was dealt with in near record time. Deputy Mayor Ben Shaw was in the chair, announcing that Mayor Martyn Evans was absent due to work commitments. The other vacant seat was that of former councillor Damian Bester who resigned from council at the end of last month.
Acting general manager Mark Eady assisted the deputy mayor at the bench, and the other councillors present were Paul Belcher, Frank Pearce, Barry Lathey, James Graham and Julie Triffett. The other staff in attendance were infrastructure and development services manager Richard Blackwell, systems manager Amanda McCall and regional development officer Jess Dallas.
The 117-page agenda for the open part of the meeting was taken care of in just over an hour. Of that, about 25 minutes was taken up by public question time. Anne Stephenson followed up on a previous question about the standard of residential developments in the municipality, and Diane Cowburn asked how long a "temporary" job could be classified as temporary without being publicly advertised. Albert Stephenson made several statements, initially thanking the acting general manager for the improved standard of answers given so far, before going on to pay tribute to the late former councillor Judy Bromfield who passed away last month. Mr Stephenson also advised that the council's dealings in regard to its 2017 annual general meeting, and the disappearance of funds set aside for sealing part of Collins Cap Rd, had been referred to the director of local government. Ian Lacey made a statement in relation to Clean Up Australia Day and the 125 bags of rubbish collected by 39 participants. Mr Lacey asked when the council's graffiti policy would be updated, and was told it wasn't a high priority.
One of the first items of business to receive much in the way of discussion was a proposal from systems manager McCall to continue the recent practice of recording council meetings with a pocket digital recorder despite some issues with the procedure. In proposing the continuation, Ms McCall suggested that the relevant policy be amended to include the recording of the council's annual general meeting. This follows the as-yet unresolved dispute over the fate of a no-confidence motion at last year's AGM. In moving that the recommendation be accepted, Cr Paul Belcher proposed that the draft minutes of each council meeting now be made available to the public as soon as practical, rather than waiting until they had been endorsed the following month. Cr Belcher said that with the recordings now available within several days of each meeting, there was no reason to withhold the draft minutes. Cr Frank Pearce supported the proposal and said although the method of recording meeting wasn't ideal, it seemed to suffice. Cr James Graham thanked the public for its feedback and when put to the vote the motion was carried unanimously.
An item about the review of the council's dog management policy also generated some discussion, although not as much as at the time of the policy's introduction last year. Two members of the public took the opportunity to provide written comments on the policy and both objected to the continuation of the ban on dogs on grassed areas at Tynwald Park. The updated policy was accepted by the majority of councillors present, with the exception of Cr Belcher who voted against the motion, saying most dog owners were responsible people. The Tynwald Park "ban" remains in place, with dogs permitted on the walking track, on a lead, only.
General manager Greg Winton's monthly senior management report prompted a conversation about the process by which a new councillor would be appointed to replace former Cr Bester. There was a particular focus on Mr Winton's statement that a new councillor would be "sworn in" before the April council meeting.
Councillor question time saw Cr Belcher ask whether the required paperwork for public question time could be provided on the council website and front desk, to which the acting general manager answered "yes". Cr Belcher also asked whether bags of garbage dumped alongside the Lyell Hwy some weeks ago could be removed, and he passed on the thanks of the Westerway Bushwatch Group for the recent sealing of a section of Bridge Rd. Cr Graham also asked several questions, including a request for a timeline for improvements to the New Norfolk town entrances and an updated on the expression of interest process for the Derwent Valley Railway feasibility study.
The meeting looked set to be all over in less than an hour until Cr Pearce questioned why the draft minutes of the council's audit panel were listed for consideration in the closed part of the meeting. Acting general manager Mark Eady said he was not aware of any reason this should be so, and on the motion of Crs Pearce and Belcher the item was moved into the open session. Councillors discussed the audit panel's draft minutes for the next 10 minutes, with Cr Shaw apologising that there were no copies for the public gallery.
The open section of the meeting ended at about 7.40pm. After a brief interval, the public was asked to leave at 7.50pm when the council moved into closed session to discuss the purchase of a new truck, and the general manager's "closed senior management report".