Outgoing Horsham Rural City Councillor David Grimble has accused the council of making an inappropriate 11th-hour decision about a major project.
At its final meeting, and following heated debate, the council endorsed $2,882,500 worth of Wimmera Riverfront activation works getting underway.
The caretaker period ahead of October's election begins at midnight. After this time, the council cannot make any decision that compels it to spend more than $266,850.
The $2.8 million will be spent on implementing the first phase of the Riverfront precinct development. The motion was moved by Mayor Mark Radford, and seconded by Councillor Pam Clarke.
"Mr Mayor," Cr Grimble said, "you have clearly come out and indicated your intentions not to nominate (for re-election), and yet you are happy to commit this council, when it should fall to the new council," he said.
Council debated the motion to endorse the next stage of works after Cr Grimble tried to have each of its five points debated individually.
He moved a motion of dissent against Mayor Mark Radford after the latter ruled the council would need to consider each aspect of the riverfront proposal all at once. This was defeated 5-2.
"I saw a similar scenario when we supposedly adopted the City to River masterplan, where a suite of recommendations was all bundled in together," he said.
Cr Grimble also said he hoped members of the new council could ask for more details on the plan, such as what it will cost to shift water infrastructure away from the proposed site of the cafe.
Councillor Pam Clarke said: "To not vote for this would be disrespectful to all the people involved, and the community group that have put so much work into this."
Councillor Les Power said the project was "much needed in Horsham... especially in relation to the COVID situation".
"We need something positive for our community, and this is something positive," he said. "We put our trust into (the Community Reference Group) that have gone out there worked tirelessly for it, and now we come to the end and say let's leave it to the next council to do? We have got to have the balls to stand up and say 'let's make a future for Horsham'. Please, let's just do it, let's go ahead."
Cr Robinson said he didn't think the council had given "due consideration' to the location of the regional water play park. He called the current location a "death trap".
"Putting it beside a dark river with steep banks is a recipe for disaster," he said. "If a mum is trying to watch three kids and the phone goes... (drowning) happens in a heartbeat. We absolutely need a risk assessment there, and if we do nothing now, the next council will have to pool fence into the river, or pool fence this site, and that would impede on the footpath and cycling track."
Cr Robinson said there were three other possible cheaper locations to build the park.
Councillor Alethea Gulvin asked whether the CRG's decision to bring the plan to Monday's meeting was unanimous, and if the new council could alter the plans after this meeting ended.
Community Wellbeing Director Kevin O'Brien said it was, and that once the plan was endorsed, and that the tenders would be issued before the new council began sitting.
"My position tonight is I will be voting in support of the proposed recommendations, due to the Community Reference Group putting a unanimous motion to have it come before us tonight, "she said.
Councillor Josh Koenig said the only time he heard negatives about the project what at council meetings.
"Maybe I'm not talking to the right people or they aren't talking to me, but the feedback I'm getting from the community, when we missed out on funding for the water play park, it was just disappointment," he said.
"The benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives for this project for me. We are at a point now where we can actually make some difference, and I don't see we're putting the next council in a sleeper hold.
"It's dumbfounding we are still arguing so much about it."
Councillors unanimously passed the first two points of the five-point motion, but councillors David Grimble and John Robinson voted against points three, four and five. These points were to endorse the concept plan, endorse its costs, and "Continue to seek opportunities to achieve all of the components of the Concept Plan".
The other five councillors all voted in favour of these remaining three points.
The estimated cost of the works that will now go ahead include $864,500 for a "civic gathering space" and services for a future cafe, $659,100 for carpark, toilet and angling club amendments, and $227,500 for path upgrades.
The Wimmera Riverfront Activation Project is one of seven sub-precincts of the City to River masterplan, a 20-year vision for Horsham.
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