Fire costs scrutinised

Spending of the $2 million clean-up package given to Latrobe City Council during the Hazelwood mine fire has come under scrutiny.

The former Coalition State Government provided the funds to local government Victoria in the wake of the mine fire to help Morwell residents clean up their ash covered town.

Latrobe City councillor Christine Sindt recently published figures on her Facebook page with a breakdown of expenditure on the mine fire.

This post attracted criticism and message of confusion from many community members, including Voices of the Valley.

The activist group’s president Wendy Farmer questioned who was being catered for with the money and why the cost of an internally owned hall hire was charged.

“That money for internal hall hire could have easily been used to help the Morwell community because most of that would have been renting their own buildings,” Mrs Farmer said.

“The community deserve a detailed answer as to where this money has been spent and how it benefited the community as the money was meant to be for the community.”

More than $9000 was charged to the State Government for an employee assistance program, which to The Express’ knowledge, included funding for workers who sought counselling.

“I don’t know why that was put into a clean-up package, they should have paid for that program, not out of the people of Morwell’s pockets,” Mrs Farmer said.

Throughout the clean-up, vacuums were available for hire and it was assumed by residents it was part of the package. However, a recent investigation by Latrobe Valley Support Network member David Hollis has shown the 80 vacuums were donated by Nilfisk.

“That’s the impression we got, the bill they got seems to be from setting up an office or something and not the clean up,” LVSN member David Hollis said.

Latrobe City chief executive Gary Van Driel justified the expenditure and said if the breakdown provided was more specific residents would understand the spending.

Mr Van Driel said in total, council would have spent about $2.5 million in response and recovery phases and was seeking to be reimbursed by the State Government who had not yet handed over the $2 million.

“Our requirement there was that we were expected to deliver what was determined as tasks by the State Government,” Mr Van Driel said.

“All those expenses were approved by local government Victoria before the money was spent. I think the key message is at the end of the day as council we don’t want to see the ratepayers out of pocket for the cost associated with the cost and recovery and the clean-up.”

Salaries and Wages $122,149.73

Meetings $1272.73

Employee Assistance Program $9270.00

Contract Staff $74,827.93

Cleaning $130,412.89

Security $0.00

Contractors $1,700,700.17

Advertising $2454.54

Catering $19,033.01

Special Events $13,485.71

Equipment Replacement $799.08

Fuel Expenses $602.98

General Operations $37,206.76

Laundry $5877.28

Lease/Rental $87,684.10

Materials $70,308.85

Photocopier Lease/Rental $2572.85

Plant Hire (External) $85,718.68

Stationery $1099.67

Rubbish Collection $561.00

Signs $830.00

Printing $709.09

Sundry Expenses $837.93

Travel $1383.51

Vehicle Expenses $15,403.34

Water Charges $7384.35

Workshop Costs $8267.10

Grants/Contributions -Gen $1000.00

Office Furniture and Equip

Purchases $8111.82

Plant and Equipment

Purchases $104,632.23

IT Charge – Internal Expense $7880.00

Internal Hall Hire Charges $10,999.00

Expenditure Total $2,533,476.33