COUNCILLORS have conceded emergency repairs to the “nightmare” state of Wagga’s road conditions will be the first order of business when they reconvene next week.
It comes after reports the local roads budget has a $9 million annual shortfall and fresh claims engineering staff skimp on road construction.
Mayor Rod Kendall has revealed council’s general manager is warning of a “significant increase” to the city’s roads maintenance in response to this year’s rainfall having already exceeded the annual average.
Cr Kendall said council may need to borrow its way out of trouble.
“At this stage we’ve experienced one of the wettest winters and early springs on record,” Cr Kendall said.
“With current interest rates so low, borrowing money over a short period of time is feasible and could be well worth thinking about.”
Cr Kendall said the federal government’s freeze on Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) – unencumbered finance – was costing Wagga council $1m per year and hampering road repairs.
The Daily Advertiser understands council general manger Alan Eldridge – who was not available for comment – is not happy with the operational efficiency of the department responsible for roads and expects more bang for the ratepayers’ buck.
Councillor Greg Conkey called on the state and federal governments to grant Wagga council emergency funding, as if the city had flooded.
“The rain has taken a huge toll on roads; the impact has been just as bad as if there had been flooding,” Cr Conkey said.
“If there was a natural disaster, we’d get assistance from the state and federal government.”
Cr Conkey agreed a loan was the most likely resolution to paving over the city’s potholes.
“There’s going to be a terrible expense to fix the potholes around the city, which everybody concedes are a nightmare,” he said.
“We’re (council’s) getting 0.5 per cent of federal government revenue, compared to 1.2 per cent when Malcolm Fraser was prime minister (1975-1983).
“We are the very poor cousins and we’re getting poorer.”
Charles Sturt University finance manager and deputy mayor Dallas Tout was wary of borrowing, but sung from the same hymn sheet about the route of council’s money woes.
“The freezing of indexation of FAG grants for three years has put substantial pressure on attempts to prioritise and maintain roads as they should be,” Cr Tout said.
Councillor Tout has called for an immediate audit of road conditions, claiming “it’s critical we begin road repair work within the next six months”.