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Mayor establishes new road improvement fund

Geoff Helisma|

Mayor Jim Simmons’ proposal to create a new Strategic Road Improvement Reserve has been realised.

Councillors ultimately agreed unanimously at the November Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting to transfer $891,159 into the new reserve.

Council staff “identified surplus reserve balances of $368,448” during October and recommended at the November meeting that councillors “agree to transfer” the money into the new road fund.

Meanwhile, the mayor ‘found’ and extra untied $522,711 in the General Fund: Sick Leave Insurance Reserve ($22,711), Public Liability Excess ($100,000) and Oncost Reserve Workers compensation ($400,000).

Prior to the meeting, Cr Simmons emailed staff to check if it would be appropriate to draw the funds from those and other reserves.

It’s a small amount when it comes to building roads, but it’s a step in the right direction, the mayor said, towards lobbying the NSW Government for grant assistance “to fund or jointly fund the three highest priority roads adopted by [councillors] as being of significant strategic and/or economic value”.

Clarence Way, Armidale Road and Orara Way were identified as those roads at the October CVC meeting.

Councillor Simmons said, “Hopefully we can use that amount [$891,159] to get grant funding from state of federal governments towards our roads.

“We want to achieve much higher funding from the state government.

“At the last election the state government said it would accept responsibility for [some] regional roads.”

The NSW Government’s 2019/20 budget pledged “$500 million over five years for the Fixing Local Roads program”, as per the Coalition’s election promises.

This funding is earmarked for “repairing, maintaining and sealing council roads”.

More importantly for CVC, the budget also pledges to “establish a process to transfer up to 15,000 kilometres of council-owned regional roads back to the state”.

However, any progress in this area, particularly regarding the three regional roads – Armidale Road and Clarence and Orara ways – has not yet occurred.

The mayor said nothing had changed, as far as he knew, since staff advised councillors in September that “discussions with the local member regarding the proposal” had taken place and staff had stressed the “need for the state government to take over Clarence Way”, which is the only unsealed regional road within the Clarence Valley LGA.

“We’ll be looking for our share of funding and having the state government taking over some of our regional roads,” the mayor said.