Lithgow City Council's General Manager, Craig Butler has provided a summary on the implementation of the 2020/21 Operational Plan.
The report not only reflected on the achievements of implementing the plan over the July to December period, but also the challenges faced and the opportunities that have arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters.
General Managers Report
Council's operating environment during the first and second quarters of 2020 continued to be profoundly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working remotely and splitting work crews kept the workforce and community safe but there were understandable challenges as new work practices were implemented. Inevitably, there was also a backlog of work as a result of Council's resources being diverted to dealing with multiple recent disasters, most notably bushfires, but also flooding and drought.
Council continued the focus on community recovery from disasters and COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council was active in partnering with other levels of government to pursue grants for recovery with great success. Emphasis was placed on working at a fine-grained level with affected communities and individuals to rebuild their lives and their properties.
New ways to engage with the community were designed and delivered. We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to connect with our rural and remote areas. The experience should equip the city with greater resilience and the Council with the experience to play a central role in people's lives as they grapple with challenges.
We recognised that the broader community were doing it tough and so when people fell behind in paying accounts we increased our focus on payment plans. Rent relief was provided to the business tenants in Council's properties. Council adjusted its works program accordingly with some projects deferred until our finances recovered.
Good outcomes were delivered with respect to the city's natural environment. Rural landfills were enhanced with new cells, site rehabilitation works and changed operating procedures better containing waste materials and preventing the dumping of hazardous wastes.
A thorough plan was developed to support the return of responsibility for the Lithgow landfill to Council's operations, with every milestone met. This will support enhanced waste resource management and improve the customer experience for users of the landfill.
Council procures potable water from the NSW government's WaterNSW and distributes that to the rural villages. For a range of reasons, the quality of the water that was provided by WaterNSW was not acceptable. Council stepped in and provided considerable resources to supply replacement water and advocated strongly for an improved level of service.
While necessary austerity measures had to be introduced to respond to cash flow challenges, significant built infrastructure was still delivered ie., reconstruction and sealing of Glen Davis Road, Hartley Vale Road, Dark Corner Road and Fields Road.
The Lithgow Pool moved across to COVID safe operating and 17,543 visited, receiving much needed recreation and activity. Also, 325 local children learned how to swim during the period.
Regional NSW experienced increased visitation and the tourism team worked hard to ensure that Lithgow was promoted as a destination.
The installation of banners brought activity and colour to Main Street Lithgow. New marketing programs were rolled out with enhanced collateral material pushed out via social media and other technology.
As people started to venture out more than 18,300 visitors called into the visitor information centre.
With events like Halloween cancelled because of COVID fresh and innovative means were used to engage the community in events.
The library excelled, hosting many electronic events such as story times and children's programs, which can only help to increase our reach into the community via new media.
Continuing our caring approach to impounded animals the dog kennel area at the Lithgow Animal Shelter was heated in time for winter and out of 183 animals impounded 150 were returned or rehoused.
In summary, the first half of this Operating Plan year has been challenging but Council has stayed focused on providing quality services throughout.
New practice had to be developed and rolled out seamlessly. Support from other levels of government has been much appreciated and we are substantially on track to deliver all funded projects on time.
The back half of this year will see attention given to customer service, financial restraint and project delivery.