Fees flushed away in vote as Council sees sense on charges

AN Iluka couple received a welcome reprieve this week when the council undertook the exceptional action of waiving $8000 in accumulated fees.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, had been told they would have to pay $9919 for sewerage services they had never used.

As The Daily Examiner reported on Monday, the couple were only told the block of land they had purchased brought with it a hidden charge when they asked for permission to build a house.

They had previously been to the council and obtained a certificate saying there were no outstanding fees on the property.

But when they filed a development application they were told it had accrued sewerage usage fees.

On Tuesday an ordinary council meeting decided this was not fair.

The couple will still have to pay $1973.19 to contribute to the initial works and studies which have been done to get the Iluka sewerage project off the ground.

Deputy general manager of the council Rob Donges said the remaining fees were kept in place because if the money was not raised from Iluka the rest of the Valley would have to foot the bill.

However, for Councillor Andrew Baker, the measure still fell short of what he thought was "right".

Cr Baker voted against the revised charge.

He accused the other councillors of being bullies.

"You're going to look at it and say; there are 12 of us here and we're big enough to bully these people into paying this charge," he said.

Councillor Craig Howe fervently objected.

"I'm not a bully and I can still walk out of here today with my integrity intact and my head held high," Cr Howe said.

The difficulty was Mr Donges had said earlier the clerk who dealt with these charges said this was far from an unusual occurrence.

"The clerk who deals with these said they had seen hundreds of similar cases," Mr Donges said.

Consequently the councillors had to work out a way to waive the fee in this case, while avoiding retrospective cases coming back to bite them.

As Mayor Richie Williamson said, "We need a defendable and achievable outcome."

He said the figure of over $9919 was not achievable for the young couple.

The motion to impose the charge of $1973.19 was passed five to four with councillors Simmons, Baker, Toms and Kingsley voting against.

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