MOST often in local government, it is not the “big picture” issues that generate the most interest.
Bold plans for the next 30 or 40 years might certainly be important, but it can be difficult to get the broader community to engage in such a conversation.
Similarly, few ratepayers will lodge submissions when council sits down to work on planning blueprints such as the Development Control Plan or Local Environment Plan – unless, of course, proposed changes directly impact them.
But people expect council to get the small things right and, when they don’t, that’s when people get upset.
Footpaths are a case in point.
Out of all the items listed in Bathurst Regional Council’s 2017-18 budget – a weighty document that details more than $100 million in local spending – the $100,000 set aside for footpath repairs will be among the most welcome.
The state of many local footpaths – particularly in the central business district – is nothing short of disgraceful, and something of an embarrassment to our city.
At a time when the council is rightly applauded for so often getting it right, this is an area where council continues to get it wrong.
The issue re-entered the headlines back in July after being raised at council by Bathurst Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association president John Hollis.
Mr Hollis told council at the time that CPSA members had raised their own concerns at a recent meeting about the state of many footpaths which created a trip hazard for elderly members of the community.
The broken footpaths were also making life difficult for parents who were pushing prams or who had toddlers with them.
The good news is work has now started on replacing some of the worst footpaths in the CBD, with workers tearing up concrete on opposite corners of the Russell-George street intersection to lay new paths.
The work is most welcome and long overdue.
The bad news is that given the size of the problem in the city now, that $100,000 is not going to go very far at all.
Council could easily allocated $1 million in next year’s budget and still not hope to fix all the trouble spots.
Whatever money is thrown at out footpaths, though, is money well spent – and you would be hard-pressed finding a single ratepayer who said otherwise.