Councillor’s caravan concerns

BALRANALD Shire councillor German Ugarte has turned to social media to voice his "absolute discontent" with "what is being done to the managers of the (Balranald) Caravan Park".

Council's decision to review the current managers' lease was first put forward as a motion at its August meeting and was passed.

The management of the Balranald Caravan Park has continued to be a hot topic in town.

The management of the Balranald Caravan Park has continued to be a hot topic in town.

This resulted in council publicly inviting expressions of interest for the park's management.

In a public post on Facebook, Cr Ugarte claimed the park's current managers Matt and Dee Jess were not offered to sign a two-year contract extension.

"This is going too far in my opinion and I'm pretty sure that the majority of the town will agree with me," Cr Ugarte said on Facebook.

"I'd also like to extend my full support to the caravan park managers (during) this extremely difficult time."

Mr and Mrs Jess have run the council-owned property on the Murrumbidgee River for five years and their current lease expires on November 30.

Cr Ugarte said Mr and Mrs Jess had turned the park into one of the state's best.

"This is not a logical nor appropriate way to treat a great group of people that have taken the caravan park to the next level of excellence and have put literally their heart and soul to make it a local icon," he said.

"We're not talking about numbers here, these are real people, real locals that do this with absolute professionalism to provide to their families.

"Moreover, how come that a company that has already been paid $20,000 plus to develop a masterplan for the park can be allowed to submit an application to manage the park?"

After expressing his concerns about the secrecy around council issues at the last Balranald Shire Council meeting, Cr Ugarte said he wanted to engage more with the community.

"(I want to) open this channel of communication with the community so the rumours can be stopped and people know exactly what is going on," he said.

"A few people around said they don't like me putting things on Facebook, but I have a right to say what I think and the community needs to know what is going on.

"This is Australia, the land of the free and we should express what we think."

Speaking to The Guardian last month, council's general manager said council acted in accordance with the laws outlined by the NSW Office of Local Government.

"There was a window within the current contract to renew the lease and we missed that window," he said.

"In the Local Government Act, it is law that we must put out for expressions of interest when expenditure exceeds $150,000.

"At the end of the day, a report is made to council and the council makes the decision."

Council Mayor Cr Leigh Byron said he was not happy with the social media rumours that were circulating in the community.

"I want to tell ill-informed residents who believe the general manager has a vote that the general manager has never and will never have a vote on council matters," Cr Byron said.

"It is the eight councillors that make the decision and no-one else."

At a confidential meeting two weeks ago, Cr Byron said he called the vote regarding the caravan park lease "a division".

However, Cr Ugarte's view on the issue was clear.

"I want common sense to prevail and we need to honour those two years for two people who have done a fabulous job," Cr Ugarte said.

"We should move forward because this thing has taken up too much energy; we should be worried about how we're going to fix our hostel and about the future of Balranald."

Mr and Mrs Jess were contacted by The Guardian, but declined to comment.

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