It's been an interesting day, but tiring.
This morning I heard a report about the fires that burned in Victoria earlier this year. 172 people were killed and there was so much damage to all and everything. The Local Government was the agency that had to "man" the evacuation centres, find places to store the donations and even manage communications during the fire itself... not to mention getting water to refill the fire trucks... councils end up doing all sorts of things because they are there.... they even had to supply pillows (at 2am one morning) to the army when they finally arrived to help. I guess they don't travel with bedding!
The other highlight of the morning was how to manage lifetime costs of unsealed roads. Some of the city councillors didn't see the relevance, but as Kapunda still has less than 30% of the streets paved, let alone the more than 1000km of roads around the more rural part of the council district, I found this enlightening.
The different kinds of rubble and how they work was really amazing. That, and the frequency of grading can really affect the time that a roadway will last. All of this needs to be taken into account in terms of costs of road building and management of the asset over its lifetime. This is important information for councillors who need to make policy and decisions about spending the ratepayers money!
There was a whole other session about stormwater and waste water treatment and re-use. South Australia does well with this, and Kapunda is one of the "lowest use per capita" of any community, even in our council district. We do re-use our wastewater to irrigate the sports facilities, and some is sold to viticulture acreages. You can always learn more though and I'm on the committee that is looking at setting even better targets for our council, so I took note of any opportunities that might make that easier for us.
I learned about tenders and contracts and how to manage them, and where things go wrong... it seems that there is a lot of psychology in all of that! or bluffing!
Then we got onto waste and recycling and landfills! Councils are seen as being responsible for "roads, rates and rubbish" so I suppose that's only fair! Once again, South Australia is doing well, though with the government levy (tax) on landfills about to double again, and most landfills to close by July 2010, there is even more work to do.
All of these things are important and I take my decision making and policy setting responsibilities seriously. I am finding council to be hard work, but hopefully I can make a difference. Politics on a small scale, but most relevant to the community, whether it's looking after an emergency or maintaining "non-producing assets" (ie roads.)
This evening... dinner in the town hall!