Described as ‘very unusual’ a rescind motion was put forward at the most recent council meeting on Tuesday 11th August, to withdraw a previous decision to upgrade the city’s water meter readers.
In fact, Mayor Col Murray said he can’t even remember the last time a rescind motion happened at a Tamworth Regional Council meeting and Mayor Murray was elected 16 years ago.
What’s all the fuss about?
On the 28th July, the council voted in favour of implementing Automated Water Meter Reading technology like what’s in place in similar council areas throughout the North West of NSW.
Known as AMR’s the report authored by Daniel Coe, Manager Water and Waste says the upgrade would be a key way to improve water leakage and reduce water use.
As a city dealing with severe drought and level 5 or permeant water restrictions, water conservation is a high priority.
In fact, Tamworth council has spent thousands of dollars on educating residents about best practice for reducing water consumption and has 10 drought initiatives in place.
Despite the council’s water management team recommending the upgrade go ahead, Deputy Mayor Betts along with Councillors Webb, Maxwell, Rodda and Inglis voted against the upgrade citing several reasons.
Unfortunately on the 11th August, the council meeting was not streamed online for the public to hear the debate surrounding this heated agenda item.
In a phone call after the council meeting Councillor Webb, said the idea might have some value in the future but he doesn’t believe it is the right time for extra expenditure that was not included in the budget.
The financial cost of upgrading the water metres has been cited as the main reason for opposing the upgrade by nearly all councillors who voted against it.
Deputy Mayor Betts and Councillor Inglis did not respond to our request for comments on the matter.
So what's the price?
The cost of reading water metres over the next 15 years if we continue as we do now would be $15.9 million according to the report prepared by the water management team.
If the AMR devices were to be implemented now it would instead cost $16.6 million over the same period.
The difference is $700,000 over 15 years.
Now you might be thinking I can’t afford to stump up extra cash especially after the impacts of drought, bushfires, a pandemic and uncertainty ahead.
However, the money for this project would come from the Consolidated Water Fund which holds $40 million dollars and can be used only for water-related infrastructure projects like this one.
The report also states the upgrade would assist the council with achieving their goal of efficient use of resources to improve environmental sustainability.
Interestingly whilst the rollout may not be happening for the entire city, AMR's will be fitted to properties that receive three restriction breach warnings in accordance with the council's drought initiatives.
Tamworth Regional Council first discussed implementing a similar AMR technology back in 2007, yet the project got pushed back in an attempt to wait for better technology improvements.
Now 13 years later we find ourselves in a similar situation once again stalling upgrades to ‘wait and see’ what the next year brings.
As for now, Councillor’s say the discussion is over because unless someone has a change of mind, those voting against the upgrade have a majority, and that is how democracy works.
Only time will tell if AMR’s will return in next year’s budget, and maybe the 3rd time really could be the charm.