THERE was a champagne moment on Long Gully Road causeway this week.
It’s been 20 years coming, but perhaps that made it all the more sweet for residents who live along the The Retreat’s gravel road and its dead end offshoot Mountain View Road.
After one hour and fifty minutes of discussion and debate on Monday night, Singleton councillors agreed to spend up to $500,000 to replace Long Gully’s old dangerous causeway with a 1.2 metre high box culvert and tarseal both roads - about 2.9 kilometres. The money is likely to come from a loan.
Cr Alison Howlett successfully moved the motion, which was seconded by Cr Val Scott, in response to last week’s state government budget announcement that Singleton would receive $5.9million to assist with three major roadworks.
As this would reduce the council’s loan needs by almost $4million, it presented a chance to divert borrowing capacity to deal with Long Gully, which had been a public saga for two decades and had developed into an unacceptable road safety issue, Cr Howlett said.
At Monday’s meeting, Long Gully resident Geoff Hungerford told councillors that council staff had agreed he could use a visual power point presentation but general manager Lindy Hyam then refused precission.
Acting assistant general manager Gary Thomson said such a presentation would set a precedent as it had never been allowed on a notice of motion.
Councillors objected to the ruling and had it lifted so the power point could go ahead.
Mr Hungerford and another resident, Kylie Ledger, then both gave power point presentations which showed the corrugated, potholed gravel roadway, the causeway under flooding water and a car accident on the road.
They spoke of “treacherous, high-velocity water” hitting the causeway, traffic regularly using the wrong side of the road to get around ruts and holes and an accident in 2007 that almost claimed the life of a mother and two children.
The mother drove onto the causeway when the water was only a few centimetres deep and was hit by a wall of water.
The three escaped because one of the children was able to open a window before their four-wheel-drive was washed down the gully.
A report by works manager Mursaleen Shah said there was a $1.9million shortfall in the council’s road maintenance funding program for the coming 12 months.
While there was money to address safety issues there was only enough to grade “maintained roads” once a year and there was nothing allocated for the next 12 months to seal any unsealed roads, Mr Shah said.
Several councillors questioned the council’s priority list and how Long Gully Road causeway could have been number two on the council’s bridge replacement program years ago and had now fallen to number 50 on a causeway replacement list.
Cr Howlett said fixing Long Gully Road’s obvious safety issues was as matter of using local knowledge to make a commonsense decision.
Cr Fred Harvison said he wanted to air “a word of caution”, the community should realise that there would be a new council in September, the money involved upgrading the causeway and roads would be part of next year’s council budget and nothing was set in concrete.
Cr Tony McNamara accused him of scaremongering.
Ten of the 11 councillors at the meeting backed the $500,000 upgrade proposal.
Cr Maxine Smith was absent and mayor Sue Moore opposed the move because it set a precedent and was not in line with the council’s culvert replacement matrix.
Cr McNamara said the matrix had numerous flaws and was not a list endorsed by councillors.
Afterward, Cr Moore gave The Argus a more detailed explanation of her opposition which said she believed councillors were not properly and fully informed and the motion effectively changed the council’s operational plan without public consultation.
Cr Moore said allowing the Long Gully causeway to jump the priority queue did not balance the entire community’s needs or allow for comment on loan borrowings.