Emotions run high

THE fiery exchange of words and heightened emotions at Monday’s Latrobe City council meeting was the result of a decade’s worth of frustration, according to Committee for Moe president Manny Gelagotis.

Saying the community had felt “betrayed and disappointed” at West Ward councillor Peter Gibbons’ notice of motion calling for a review of the Moe Railway Revitalisation Project – Moe Activity Centre Plan, Mr Gelagotis said Cr Gibbons’ actions sent a “bad message which will create confusion at (state and federal) government if there was confidence in the project”.

“It’s Moe’s turn now; Moe deserves this project,” Mr Gelagotis said, adding the community only found out about the motion on the weekend. “With the motion, uncertainty (has been created); this review is a way of councillors saying they are not happy with it.”

While acknowledging there had not been funds allocated to the project, he questioned how funding could be secured “with this behaviour”. Mr Gelagotis said from his discussions with community members, a total of $150 million had been made in the town on the back of the MACP. “A lot of us feel the project is about 80 per cent right, but we are not prepared to snap off its legs for the rest of it,” he said, adding in a recent meeting, Cr Gibbons had indicated his support for the project.

Speaking to The Express the day after the heated meeting, Cr Gibbons admitted he could have “worded things a bit differently”, but he had been forewarned of the potential backlash about how people would interpret the notice of motion.

“The project will most definitely go ahead,” Cr Gibbons said.

“I support the project and I always have, it’s just that I believe some components can be more efficient; I haven’t changed my position on this.”

A former member of Moe and District Residents Association, Cr Gibbons said he was no longer part of the group.

“Historically, MADRA was always in support of the project though we had a different view with its components,” he said.

Saying he was heartened by the community’s strong views on the matter, Cr Gibbons said the success of the project hinged upon obtaining government funding support in a time where spending on infrastructure was tight. Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley said other than $5 million outlined in council’s 10-year financial plan, a balance of $16 million was sought from the state and federal governments under the MRRP – MACP’s current design. “So far, we have spent and committed a total of $7.6 million on the project including funding the rest station and power line relocation, which is underway,” Mr Buckley said.

“A portion of the money was also spent on land acquisition, detailed design and the rest station works.”

He said council officers were preparing to undertake the review between now and the end of January, with a more detailed process timeframe for the review to be brought to the table on 4 February.

“As part of the resolution, we will conduct meetings through February,” he said.