Residents upset at council silence on questions

PUBLIC questions put to the Ballarat City Council dating back to February remain unanswered, and residents are growing increasingly frustrated with the delays. 

Questions put to the council about documents relating to  tests undertaken at the Civic Hall that show the hall is redundant have gone without a response for almost five months.

Ballarat resident Frank Williams also submitted several questions in May inquiring about damage that allegedly occurred to the ‘golden pikes’ of the iconic Pikeman’s Dog statue while it was in the Eureka Centre, before it was moved into storage when the Eureka Centre building became the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka.

He is yet to receive a response.

Mr Williams believes the statute was damaged three years ago in the centre and again when it was being transported to storage.

Mr William’s questions relate to whether the council had made an insurance claim about the damage, fixed the damage to the statue and whether it would work to protect it from future damage. 

“I’m becoming frustrated to an extent because my concerns have been raised to the City of Ballarat several times and you would have thought they could have convened a meeting of some sort if there is undue delay in getting a response back,” he said. 

“I am very disappointed given the considerable time lapse of when the statue was damaged and also that we have entrusted the safe keeping of this statue to the City of Ballarat yet they can’t provide us with a response on its condition.” 

Resident Gary Fitzgerald said submitting public questions to the council was becoming increasingly “self-defeating”.

Mr Fitzgerald submitted questions about the purpose of a $5000 council-funded trip three councillors and a council officer took to Tamworth, New South Wales, in May to inspect saleyards. He is also yet to receive a written response. 

Resident John Barnes also voiced concerns about the council’s delay in responding to public questions at last Wednesday night’s council meeting.

He said previous councils had had a mandatory 72-hour turnaround for a written response to a question that couldn’t be immediately answered on the night of a council meeting. He said at times he had asked straightforward public questions and waited almost three months for a reply.

He said if it was a difficult issue, the council should provide a written response with a timeline outlining when a response would be made.

“I have raised this issue with the council at least 10 times,” he said. 

City of Ballarat chief executive officer Anthony Schinck said the council sought to respond to public questions asked in council meetings within two weeks.

“Occasionally these questions are technical in nature and require longer response times,” he said. 

He said the trip to Tamworth had been approved by the council on April 9. 

The purpose of the trip was for the council to inspect a new “state-of-the-art saleyard” to assist in decision-making regarding an expected future application for a new Ballarat Saleyard, he said. A report was being prepared for the council.

The City of Ballarat did not answer questions raised by The Courier on the condition of the Pikeman’s Dog statue or whether damaged had been fixed and at what cost.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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