TOODYAY Road (pictured left after serious traffic accident in February) will be further upgraded with another $5.6 million in Federal funds.
Two sections will be widened and a new passing lane completed by early next year.
Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi thanked the Federal Government for its contribution to the project.
“The Toodyay Road upgrade project has been in development for about five years and it is fantastic to see some substantial funding allocated to continue addressing one of the most dangerous roads in the Wheatbelt,” she said.
“The $7 million allocated, of which $5.6 million is from the Federal Government, will enable the construction of 2.5km of Toodyay Road from Jingaling Brook heading east towards Toodyay.Read more
“A key component of this work will be a westbound overtaking lane which has been identified as a key safety improvement along this stretch of road.
“The Shire of Toodyay is delighted that this funding allocation demonstrates the State and Federal governments’ ongoing commitment to making this road safer for the Toodyay community, visitors and all road users,” Mrs Madacsi said.
Between January 2014 and December 2018 Toodyay Road had the highest rate of fatal and serious-injury crashes within the Wheatbelt region.
THE SHIRE of Toodyay has been awarded a $462,600 State grant to help further reduce the risk of bushfire.
A total of 62 risk-mitigation activities will be carried out in the shire.
Tenders closed on August 4 and work is due to start next month on shire-managed Crown land, including road verges.
It follows State-funded fire mitigation work worth $1.1 million on 115 treatments last financial year.Read more
The new work will reduce fuel loads in reserves, remove invasive grasses and weeds, and build and improve fire access tracks.
Toodyay Shire President Rosemary Madacsi said the shire would do as much as possible to avoid creating disturbance to residents.
“The end result will make living in Toodyay not only safer but provide our community with enhanced access to enjoy the reserves and their surrounds,” she said.
“Private landholders are reminded to be prepared for the upcoming fire season.”
Shire of Toodyay’s new $14 million recreation precinct – many ratepayers wanted only a pool.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
TOODYAY ratepayers face years of rising costs and economic hardship caused by a 2017 council decision to build a new $14 million recreation centre and pool without the means to pay for it.
The shire’s new 2020-21 budget shows that this financial year’s operating costs will exceed regular income by $2.6 million despite drastic new cost-cutting measures.
The biggest cost burden will be repaying a $4.5 million loan and operating costs for the new recreation centre which the former council approved soon after the 2017 election despite public calls for just a $1 million pool.Read more
The deficit will be offset this year by more than $3.6 million in external grants, subsidies and financial contributions.
However, the shire’s underlying operating surplus ratio is still well below State Government audit standards.
The ratio measures the shire’s ability to pay for its operations out of regular revenue and have money left over to fund new projects.
The council’s long-standing practice of increasing revenue by charging higher rates was postponed this year after an April decision to freeze rates, fees and charges to help relieve local economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 health crisis.
Shire budget papers show that rates revenue raised this financial year will fall about two per cent short of last year’s total.
But the total cost of shire borrowings has more than doubled to $5.9 million – mostly due to additional recreation centre costs.
Loan repayments for all shire borrowings this year will total $600,000, of which more than half will be for the recreation centre.
Ongoing annual shortfalls prompted auditors Moore Stephens to warn the council in June last year of a “significant adverse trend” in shire finances since 2016.
This year’s ratio shows a three-fold worsening of that trend with a budgeted operating surplus ratio of minus 34 per cent.
Last month’s council meeting adopted eight recomendations concerning various parts of the shire’s 2020-21 budget with a mostly unanimous 7-0 vote (Cr Ben Bell absent and one seat vacant).
The only dissenter was Cr Paula Greenway (pictured left at last year’s ground-breaking ceremnony for Toodyay’s new $14 recreation precinct) , who raised her hand against the final motion when Shire President Rosemary Madacsi asked councillors if there were any objections to adopt the budget as a whole, including financial statements, notes, supporting documents and schedules.
The recommendation was moved by Cr Phil Hart, who spoke briefly in favour of it and praised shire staff for putting a “huge amount of work” into preparing this year’s budget for adoption.
His motion was seconded by Cr Therese Chitty, who chose not to speak.
Cr Greenway remained silent when President Madacsi asked if there were any speakers against Cr Hart’s motion.
When her name was called by President Madacsi, Cr Greenway said “I don’t wish to speak”.
The motion was carried 6-1 with Cr Greenway voting against it.
She declined next day to respond to a Herald email when asked to explain publicly why she voted against the budget.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst was not involved in preparing this year’s budget, which the council adopted last month on only her second day at work.
She said it was a near break-even budget with virtually no surplus – “there’s no fat in it”.
“This will be the case for the next few years,” she said.
“We won’t have any ‘play money’ for big new things.
“Staff have been told to be vigilant about costs and we have to be very cautious about how we approach things.”
Ms Haslehurst said shire service levels had been reviewed and four positions were made redundant for a cost saving of about $600,000.
Budget papers show planned rates revenue of $6.3 million and a nominal surplus of $1.1 million, which includes grants, subsidies and contributions from external sources.
However, operating costs will exceed regular shire income by $2.6 million, largely due to recreation centre costs and large annual loan repayments that are set to continue for the next 20 years.
“We need to be very pro-active about obtaining new grant funding but don’t have sufficient financial reserves to provide matching funds,” she said.
“Our priorities this financial year will be roads, maintenance and upgrades, drainage and footpaths, and paying down loans.”
Ms Haslehurst said she expected construction work on Toodyay’s new recreation centre to be completed by the end of September and the new public swimming pool open in time for the coming summer season.
The shire has advertised for a “suitably qualified operator” to manage part or all of the new recreation precinct including the swimming pool, sports grounds and other facilities.
Tenders close at 2pm on Wednesday July 8.
TOODYAY will get a new face on council this month as the result of an election to replace former Cr Bill Manning who resigned in April to live in Tasmania.
Three newcomers have nominated for the vacancy, which will be decided by a postal ballot of all Toodyay voters starting on Thursday July 2.
The poll will close at 6pm on Friday July 31 and the winner is expected to be announced by the WA Electoral Commission in Toodyay later that evening.
The three new candidates all claim to be unaligned to Toodyay’s current eight councillors who have been split 4:4 on key decisions, including the shire presidency.Read more
Ongoing divisions also blocked an initial bid last month to secure an absolute majority of five votes to allow new Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst to start her new job on June 22 instead of having to wait until mid-August.
The shire has lacked a full-time CEO since February, including during the recent virus lockdown, staff cuts and an emergency budget based on no increase in rates or fees and no extra charges for late payments.
Cr Brian Rayner (left), who nobody voted for in 2017, declined a Herald request to explain – with three other councillors unusually absent – why he didn’t want the new CEO to start earlier, saying it was “confidential”.
The three candidates seeking to fill former shire president Bill Manning’s seat say they all want change.
All three have professional qualifications and business skills – one is a former university business lecturer and shop owner, two have local farming experience, one is a former WA regional city administrator, and another provides financial advice to miners.
The winner is expected to break an impasse between four new councillors elected by all Toodyay voters last October and three longer-serving members who were re-elected two years earlier under a now abolished ward system that excluded most Toodyay voters.
The shire is also awaiting the outcome of a long-running WA Government inquiry into its operations and affairs over seven years.
A WA Local Government Department spokesperson said State officials would soon ask people named in the inquiry to respond to the findings before WA Local Government Minister David Templeman tables a final report in State Parliament.
Candidate April Ashley (right) posted on Facebook before last year’s elections: “I hope that sanity prevails and that the moment the new councillors take their seats, there will be no more CEO or President ‘issues’ and that the residents of 2J will be able to relax knowing that their rates will be fairly evaluated and spent wisely. Vote well folks.”
Ms Ashley – who has worked as a university business lecturer and operated small businesses, including a coffee shop and educational company – says she has no personal agenda, supports open and accountable government and that a vote for her in this month’s election will be a vote for transparency and integrity.
She said she had lectured in accounting, finance and management for 30 years at nearly all WA universities, private colleges and TAFEs and is a “positive thinker who believes in working together to achieve positive outcomes”.
“I have no personal agenda and if elected I will be your representative and your mouthpiece,” she said.
Rival candidate and Hoddys Well farmer Keith Boase (left) says “it has been disappointing to see continuing frictions within the council which is operating in a manner that causes harm to the local government and residents of the area”.
“I believe strong governance with the best interests of the residents of our shire can be achieved only by electing experienced people who will commit to providing sound decision-making without fear or favour,” Mr Boase said.
“I understand the commitment and workload involved to offer a new, independent voice to the council chamber that will bring vision and stability to restore balance in Toodyay.”
Mr Boase is a former Shire of Quairading landcare coordinator, former Agriculture Department Kalgoorlie acting district manager, former City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder environmental coordinator and manager of sustainability and waste services (including WA’s largest sewerage system outside Perth), and is currently Parks and Gardens Coordinator at the City of Swan.
The third candidate, Toodyay Central Volunteer Bushfire Brigade Captain Mick McKeown (right), says Toodyay is at a crossroads ‒ “this election provides our community with a chance to decide whether to continue with the divisions of the past or to change things for the better in the future”.
“We have significant challenges ahead and our council badly needs people who can analyse and understand complex laws, regulations and policies,” he said.
“I am not (and will not be) aligned with any group on the council and this will allow me to liaise closely with all my fellow councillors to achieve the best outcomes for the community of Toodyay.”
Mr McKeown – who is a leading member of Toodyay’s Friends of the Catholic Precinct – holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology, a Masters Degree in Engineering Science and an Agricultural Management Diploma, is a Perth Royal Show award-winning local olive oil producer and is a financial analyst for Australian and overseas mining companies.
His nomination was publicly endorsed by Crs Therese Chitty and Paula Greenway who ‘liked’ it last month on the popular Let’s Talk Toodyay page on Facebook which has more than 4400 members.
Toodyay voters should start receiving candidates’ statements, ballot papers and voting instructions in reply-paid envelopes at their postal addresses early this month.
Anyone who misses out can call the WA Electoral Commission on 13 63 06.
The Toodyay Progress Association will host a free ‘Meet the Candidates’ public forum at the Toodyay Community Centre in Stirling Terrace (next to Alma Beard Medical Centre) at 7pm on Monday July 20.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
LOCAL property owners will not have to pay higher rates next month as the Toodyay Shire Council makes emergency cuts to its 2020-21 budget and braces for a series of major changes in coming months.
The shire has axed four staff positions – including Manager of Community Development – to save a total of $600,000 a year from next month.
It coincides with the expected arrival of new Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst a day before a scheduled June 23 ordinary council meeting, news that the result of a long-running WA Government inquiry into the shire is a step closer to being tabled in State Parliament and another shire election due next month.Read more
New Shire President Rosemary Madacsi called the election (shire notice Herald Page 13) last month to fill a vacancy on the nine-member council to replace former shire president Bill Manning who resigned in April to move to Tasmania.
Shire rates in the dollar will stay at last year’s levels, and any increases in State land valuations will not be added to rates bills.
Shire fees and charges – including for rubbish collection – will not increase, overdue rates will not be charged interest and property owners will not pay extra for paying their rates in quarterly instalments.
Owners who pay in full by the due date will get a three per cent discount instead of going into a draw for sponsored prizes.
Acting Shire CEO Chileya Luangala confirmed last month that the new budget would include all measures adopted at a Covid-19 special council meeting in April.
She said councillors had met eight times since December to discuss shire finances and a further budget meeting was planned before a 4pm agenda briefing scheduled for Tuesday June 16.
Savings of about $600,000 had been made by last month by making four staff positions redundant.
Savings included employee direct and on-costs, vehicle-related costs, fringe benefits tax and “associated reductions in services”.
Meanwhile, the WA Local Government Department says State lawyers have finished examining a report by three Perth investigators into shire operations and affairs over the past seven years.
The State Solicitor’s Office returned the report to the department after deciding whether to extract any evidence that could be used for a prosecution before the report is sent to the shire for comment and then tabled in State Parliament by WA Local Government Minister David Templeman.
The inquiry covers present and former shire councillors and staff, including former shire CEO Stan Scott whose 12-month ‘interim’ contract was cut short in April after the council rejected his bid last year to keep his job for another three to four years.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst has signed a four-year contract and is due to start later this month.
An eight-day nomination period for next month’s council election to fill a vacancy created by former president Bill Manning s resignation in April will open on Wednesday June 17 and close at 4pm on Wednesday June 24.
The WA Electoral Commission will conduct a postal ballot of all Toodyay voters with a bulk mail out of candidates’ statements and voting forms starting Thursday July 2.
The electoral roll closes on Thursday June 25.
Property owners who live outside the shire should check if they are still on the electoral roll under voting rules which require their details to be updated every 12 months.
Heavy earthmoving equipment uproots a 100-year-old tree at Toodyay’s heritage-listed Catholic Precinct which has been subdivided and rezoned for commercial development. Parishioners fear historic former convent and school buildings will be next to go.
By Mick McKeown, Friends of the Toodyay Catholic Precinct
THE TOODYAY Catholic Precinct is one of three historic precincts in the town of Toodyay. The other two are the Gaol Group and the Stirling Terrace Main Street Precinct.
These three places are described in shire policy as having “special qualities which are highly valued by the community and it is important to retain and enhance these qualities as the town develops through time”.
The subdivision works in the Toodyay Catholic Precinct have just commenced with the clearing of several majestic old trees at the rear of the area.Read more
A heavy excavator uproots a giant tree (above) which was part of Toodyay’s historic Catholic Precinct near the town entry.
The trees have been cleared to allow for a new road to access some of the new blocks being created as part of the subdivision.
The Archdiocese of Perth submitted an application for the subdivision to the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) on 13 September 2017 and final approval was granted on 15 June 2018.
Sometime between these two dates, the subdivision application was sent to the Shire of Toodyay for a report into how the application took into account the provisions of Toodyay’s local planning scheme.
A report was provided by the Shire of Toodyay and sent to the WAPC.
Unfortunately, the report was made by staff of the shire under what is known as “delegated authority” which meant that the people of Toodyay, including the councillors, did not know that a subdivision had been proposed and there was no opportunity for public comment.
The practical results of that subdivision approval are now being seen and felt in Toodyay.
On 5 December 2018, the Catholic Precinct was placed in the State Register of Heritage Places as an important historical landmark with a striking architectural presence on the main street of Toodyay.
This register provides the highest level of heritage protection available.
Now the future of the precinct is further at risk because the shire has received a development application (public notice Page 8, June Herald) for the demolition of one of the buildings in the precinct.
This would mean that the destruction that has begun with the felling of the trees may continue with the destruction of one of the buildings.
John Clarke (left) and Mick McKeown in the Garden of Peace with the covered brick walkway behind – both heritage areas face demolition.
The building in the firing line is the covered walkway (see above) from the rear of the church to the convent .
The walkway is a 20-metre-long brick passageway that links the convent to the church next to the Garden of Peace, which also faces demolition.
When the church was opened in 1963, the Beverley Times newspaper reported that a chapel inside the Church was “connected to the Convent by a covered way” and was for the exclusive use of the Sisters of Mercy.
The walkway provided safe and secure access by the Sisters to their chapel at all times and in all weathers.
The State Heritage listing states that in 1963, the walkway was considered innovative and unique.
Nearly 60 years have passed since the walkway was built and the passage of time has not decreased its rarity or uniqueness, rather its importance has been enhanced by its long association with the work of the Sisters of Mercy in Toodyay.
The Archdiocese of Perth has lodged an application to demolish this walkway.
Now is the time for the people of Toodyay to stand up for the future of the historic buildings of which we are so proud.
The demolition of the walkaway and adjacent Garden of Peace should be opposed, so please do this by responding to the advertisement regarding the demolition on this page.
Widespread community opposition will reinfornce the importance that we in Toodyay attach to our history.
The Toodyay Shire Council voted last month in favour of Cr Paula Greenway’s motion that the shire staff must notify council regularly of any changes that affect the Catholic group of buildings.
A widespread community response in this case will also send a signal that this good beginning must be followed by increasing the protection of the precinct by removing the delegated authority and guaranteeing that the elected Council of Toodyay is the appropriate body to determine its future.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
WHEATBELT health officials and Toodyay police are cautioning people not to become complacent about observing social distancing rules and to keep washing their hands regularly as the State Government moves to ease Covid-19 restrictions in WA.
Permitted gatherings will increase from 20 to 100 people from Saturday June 6 but the illness can still be spread by people without symptoms who may be unaware they are infected.
Federal health officials said people need “to stay home if they have any cold or flu symptoms – no matter how mild – and get tested for Covid-19”.Read more
This would help prevent a “second wave” of infections after earlier restrictions had enabled Australia to “very successfully flatten the curve” of new Covid-19 cases, particularly in WA.
Toodyay residents are also being urged to seek clinical help for virus-related anxiety or distress after a 20 per cent increase in referrals to psychological support services.
Local cafes and shops showed a big increase in trade from Perth visitors in the last two weekends of May when the State government ended its Wheatbelt lockdown and eased social distancing rules.
However, many visitors appeared to be ignoring social distancing rules on crowded pavements and in the Charcoal Lane car park.
The virus has killed 370,000 people worldwide and more than 100 in Australia.
WA’s interstate and overseas borders stayed shut at the start of this month but travel to Perth and elsewhere in WA was allowed to resume from the third week of May.
Official figures show that about 10 per cent of Australia’s 7000 known infections were spread locally from unknown sources.
Infected people remain contagious for up to 14 days unless the virus takes hold and develops into a cough or fever.
State health officials say people still need to “keep 1.5m away from others where possible and maintain good personal hygiene” after restrictions ease from June 6.
The Wheatbelt Health Network says Covid-19 can be spread unknowingly by people without symptoms to others who then become contagious without symptoms and can again unknowingly pass to virus onto others who become ill.
“That’s why it’s important to maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres and continue to wash hands regularly – it’s a silent risk,” a Wheatbelt Health spokesman said.
“That’s also why it’s important for everyone with a smartphone to download the government’s COVIDsafe app so the virus can be traced through potential contacts and people at risk tested and, if necessary, isolated to prevent further spread.
“Six million people have done it so far.
“Healthy people with strong personal immune systems will defeat the virus after two weeks unless it develops into a cough or a fever,” the spokesperson said.
“Anyone who feels unwell should stay home and self-isolate to stop any potential spread and call a doctor for advice.”
The spokesperson said one good outcome from social distancing restrictions was a “phenomenal” drop in the number of people seeking medical treatment for common colds and influenza.
“A lot more people this year also had flu vaccinations, which helped to reduce the number of reported cases at clinics and hospitals,” the spokesperson said.
However, the virus has caused a 20 per cent increase in the number of Toodyay people seeking clinical help to deal with emotional distress, including anxiety about financial concerns and personal relationships.
Local clinical psychologist Richard Taylor said people experiencing anxiety or distress could call Toodyay’s Alma Beard Medical Centre for a doctor’s referral to his bulk-billing practice to get tele-help support at home via a smartphone, tablet or computer, or visit his clinic.
“This makes it much easier for people living in rural areas to get help, he said.
“A lot of my work is now done this way.”
See Police Beat
A RECORDING error at last month’s Toodyay Shire Council meeting resulted in the reversal of a 4-3 decision to turn a muddy track (left) in West Toodyay into a gravel road.
Viewers who left before the end of the 4½-hour live-streamed meeting missed seeing the decision reversed after Cr Ben Bell challenged it on a point of order.
He said an absolute majority vote of at least five members of the normally nine-member council was needed for the motion to pass because it called for the shire to spend extra money not included in 2019-20 shire budget.Read more
Shire President Rosemary Madacsi earlier declared a proximity interest and left the chamber because she owns a property adjoining an impassable 110m section of North Street that is currently closed to traffic.
Shire Deputy President Beth Ruthven chaired the debate among the remaining seven councillors (one seat vacant) which resulted in what was initially recorded as a 4-3 decision to open and upgrade the road.
However, the motion was later declared lost because the decision to spend unbudgeted money lacked an absolute majority.
Cr Bell said the council was trying to cut costs and did not need to spend an extra $95,000 on a road that was already closed.
Cr Susan Pearce, whose motion to re-open North Street was seconded by Cr Brian Rayner, said successive councils had debated the issue for 20 years and a decision was needed.
Cr Ruthven later served a notice of motion for this month’s council meeting at 4pm on Tuesday June 23 that North Street’s temporary closed status between Fitzgerald Terrace and Collett Way be removed and that $95,000 be considered in the shire’s 2020-21 budget to surface it with gravel.