Bayside backlash

GROUNDSWELL: Port MacDonnell and district residents rally outside the town's community complex in a show of solidarity after Grant District Councillor Graham Slarks, pictured right, raised concerns over the facility's costs. Mayor Richard Sage also joined the group. 	       Picture: CAITLIN KENNEDY

GROUNDSWELL: Port MacDonnell and district residents rally outside the town's community complex in a show of solidarity after Grant District Councillor Graham Slarks, pictured right, raised concerns over the facility's costs. Mayor Richard Sage also joined the group. Picture: CAITLIN KENNEDY

GRANT district elected member Graham Slarks warned rates would continue to rise unless council started to reign in spending.

His comments follow a community backlash stemming from comments he made about the Port MacDonnell community complex.

Cr Slarks called for the seaside town to "step up" and help fund the $285,000 operating cost of the centre.

He claimed every rateable property in the district was paying $100 each year for the centre.

Acknowledging his comments had fuelled debate, Cr Slarks yesterday stood by his comments.

"We are living beyond our means," Cr Slarks claimed.

"If people are happy for rates to rise above CPI next year and the year after, then I am happy and I will accept that."

But he warned council would "rack up" further debt if it did not start looking at costs.

Cr Slarks said council's borrowing had increased in recent times given a number of council projects and other pressures.

He said the community needed to consider whether it was happy with higher taxes and rates.

"You either accept that or something needs to be cut," Cr Slarks said.

He said council had foreshadowed not having a balanced budget to at least 2018 following a deficit last year.

"This is a risky path to take," Cr Slarks warned.

He also claimed much of the backlash was flowing from the Port MacDonnell area and not other ratepayers in the district.

Meanwhile, Grant District Mayor Richard Sage has publicly supported the centre after standing with residents outside the facility on Anzac Day.

"I was pretty disappointed the way Cr Slarks more or less told the Port MacDonnell community to step up and pay more," the mayor said.

He said the centre was not just for Port MacDonnell, but the entire district.

"There have been letters of support from across the district," Mr Sage said.

"People are proud of the community complex and there was a lot of work put in to establish it - that's why there is so much feeling," Mr Sage said.

Conceding the centre's winter operating hours needed to be explored, he said concerns had been raised by a number of councillors.

But he believed the centre was efficient and the envy of other areas.

He said the centre housed government, council, banking and library services, as well as the maritime museum.

Mr Sage said he did not know of any other centre that had so many features and services under one roof.

"It is pretty cost-effective," he said.

But he said the staff at the centre had taken on board the comments from Cr Slarks and would canvass cutting costs where possible.

"I agreed to pose in the photograph on Saturday after their was some discussion at the community breakfast ... I wanted to show my support," Mr Sage said.

Meanwhile, he said Port MacDonnell needed to grow its tourism and business opportunities to create jobs.

He said the newly constructed boat ramp, the community complex and council's plans to improve the aesthetics of Port MacDonnell were all important for tourism growth.

Mr Sage said the area needed to lock-in new eco-tourism opportunities.

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