West Wimmera Shire blocks motion to reimburse planning fees to Edenhope College music room project

WEST Wimmera Shire councillors have blocked a request to reimburse Edenhope College for a planning fee associated with its music room regeneration project

Mayor Bruce Meyer and Crs Richard Hicks and Tom Houlihan said they were concerned that returning the fee of $320 would create a precedent for other groups who did not look into expenses submitting a planning application.

Edenhope College partnered with not for profit organisation Hands on Learning to get ‘at risk of early leaving’ students involved in the building the music room project.

Cr Meyer said the college received a grant which covered their building materials and that the labour was voluntary.

“My question is what do you estimate the amount in cash that the school had to pay for this project?”he said. 

“Am right in saying this has cost the school no money at all, apart from the building fee?”

Mr Meyer was told by shire directors that Edenhope College had incurred some costs in fittings and cement.

“Has the council ever returned building fees for any project owned by the state government? It’s a loaded question; I know the answer,” Cr Meyer said.

Cr Jodie Pretlove moved that the shire grant the reimbursement.

“I believe, being a new council, we need to support projects like this to encourage students to participate in community projects,” she said.

“I realise it is a government department, but we need to make our decisions based on the merits of projects.

“There could be a lot to gain for our community if we waive this fee, as I read that the project has other professionals giving up their services and time.”

Cr Trevor Domaschenz said he agreed with Cr Pretlove’s motion and that he believed it would not set a precedent if the fee was returned.

Cr Hicks said he half agreed with Crs Pretlove and Domaschenz.

“It is a dilemma. I do believe it sets a bit of a precedent, and I think that is a little unfortunate,” Cr Hicks said.

“I certainly acknowledge that $320 is not a vast amount of money but it does concern me that if a precedent is set, we will rue the day.

“My biggest concern is that we are providing funds to another government department. The overall issue is that these sorts of expenses should be properly costed in a grant application.”

Cr Hicks said the shire should send out notices that if a group is doing a grant application, it needed to put in all the costs and itemise them clearly.

Cr Houlihan said he agreed that it would set a precedent and that some groups needed to be educated on applying for grants.

Cr Meyer said he wanted to make it clear that he would oppose the motion to reimburse Edenhope College.

“We have many projects in the pipeline at the moment, all of whom can apply for the same reimbursement on stronger grounds,” he said.

“When we do our shire grants, we do not allow government bodies to apply because their funding comes from the state government.

“Who owns the asset when this project is built? The state government owns it. Don’t ever mention cost shifting to me ever again if this is passed.”

The motion was lost with Crs Meyer, Houlihan and Hicks opposing.

West Wimmera Shire chief executive David Leahy was absent from the chamber during the motion due to his position on Edenhope College’s advisory council.