Mayor praises Kouga municipality’s successes of the past six months

In a lengthy speech on the ‘state of the Kouga Municipality’ today, 28 February,  in Jeffreys Bay, Executive Mayor, Elza van Lingen, praised her Council for its achievements in the last six months.  And, as was expected by many observers, she also criticised the previous municipal government.

Six months ago, the Democratic Alliance was chosen in the 2016 municipal elections to lead the Kouga Council.  The speech contained good news, such as successes, and bad news , such as severe municipal financial constraints and warnings, again, of increased water prices.

The following is a condensed version, a précis of the main points of the mayor’s speech (edited by St Francis Chronicle):

Van Lingen said she had the honour of reporting back to communities on what how the new Kouga Council’s plans to take the municipality and region to new heights.

Forward-Planning And Inclusivity

She told Kouga residents they will always be included in planning and budgeting processes.

The municipal government is compiling a new five-year Integrated Development Plan (IDP). Public consultation took place in all wards last year.

A second round of community meetings will be held soon.

Regular joint outreach events with Seda and will be held in April once the draft IDP and draft budget for the 2017/2018 financial year have been adopted by Council.

The new government team has commenced a long term plan for the area Kouga Vision 2030, which it believes has the potential to lift the spirit of our communities, renew investor confidence and facilitate economic growth and job creation in our region. 

The Vision is where they want Kouga to be in 10- 15 years’ time and what needs to be done to achieve this.

The new government has spoken to municipal staff about the municipality’s poor image and the need for it to work together to change people’s negative perceptions. 

Engagements have been held with local organised labour unions to resolve long-outstanding staff disputes which resulted in demoralising the workforce and added to service delays.

The unions were thanked for being willing to work with the new leadership.

“We are confident that Council and staff will make our new vision for the municipality of Good Governance through Service Excellence a reality.”

Much hard work lies ahead, she said, adding that the following values must be entrenched: service excellence; accountability and transparency; morality and honesty; equity, dignity and respect; freedom and fairness; integrity, professionalism and discipline; and empathy and compassion.

Financial Viability and Sustainability

The cash flow of the municipality remains constrained. “Kouga is a going concern and is in no immediate danger of becoming bankrupt,” she said.

Outstanding debtors (money owed to the municipality) at end December 2016 amounted to R147-million. “Of concern is that R114-million of this debt is older than 120 days and will probably be difficult to recover.”

Revenue enhancement is a critical area and is receiving attention. The new General Valuation Roll will be compiled and procurement is underway for the service provider.

The outstanding creditors’ balance end of December was R83-million, with creditors of less than 30 days totalling R34-million.

Creditors include mostly government institutions, such as the Department of Transport (R10-million), Eskom (R16-million; current account), and the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (R46-million).

The municipality received a significant bulk water bill from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in May 2016. According to the Metro, Kouga had been incorrectly billed from December 2012 to April 2016. Though the municipality is in negotiations with the Metro over this, it is still required to include the amount in creditors until the issue has been resolved.

Accountability

A Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) has been established under Clr Atri Carstens and is dealing with the municipality’s 2015/2016 Annual Report, including the Auditor-General’s Report for the same period.

There is also a backlog of land applications waiting to be processed and a Land Advisory Committee has been established.

Waste Management, Cleansing and Parks

A five-year Fleet Replacement Plan is being finalised. Council will be auctioning off redundant vehicles, the proceeds of which will be ploughed back into acquiring a new fleet.

In the 2016/2017 Adjustments Budget, provision was made for the procurement of an additional waste compactor truck and an additional mesh truck.

The municipality has nine refuse trucks to service the region but only four are operational. Not only does this lead to delays in refuse collection, it also increases overtime expenditure.

The Council approved funding for new grass-cutting equipment so sidewalks, public open spaces and cemeteries, can be better maintained.

The cleaning up of cemeteries will be a priority in the coming year with new land being identified.

The R25-million upgrade of the landfill sites at Humansdorp and Hankey has finally been completed. The project has been officially handed over to the municipality by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The drop-off zone at Jeffreys Bay has been completed and a temporary site has been set up for garden refuse at St Francis Bay. The upgrade of the Oyster Bay mini transfer station is underway, with Patensie next on the list for a drop-off zone

Roads

Temporary teams were employed to help fix the worst potholes along busy roads before the past festive season, she said. “There is no quick fix to the problem as a whole,” van lingen said.

The municipality is finalising a new maintenance plan for gravel and tar roads. Owing to our financial constraints, however, the immediate aim for the 2017/2018 financial year is to surface 1km of road.

The municipality is exploring labour-intensive methods of surfacing and repairing roads.  It hired a grader to repair gravel roads at Humansdorp and access roads to Donkerhoek, which is to be included in the Kruisfontein 391 housing project.

Electricity

The electrification of 190 erven at Donkerhoek and the upgrade of the main 22kv electrical line to the area will start soon. The contract, worth R6-million, was recently awarded.

The registration of servitudes for the construction of an additional 66kv main power line to Jeffreys Bay is underway. The valuations have been completed and contracts signed with the landowners.

Water

Kouga Council recently had to make the difficult decision to impose water restrictions and punitive penalties.

Dam levels have been dropping at an alarming rate and the Metro introduced water restrictions.  

Last week, the Metro issued a warning that less than 500 days’ supply of water remained if usage trends continue as they are now. 

Kouga has been mandated by the Metro to decrease its water usage by 15% by end March – otherwise the water price will increase and Kouga residents will have to pay more for water.

Kouga’s dependency on the Metro for water needs to be addressed. The municipality will consider developing alternative water sources such as desalination plants.

The occurrence of brown water at Wavecrest is being addressed.

Waste Water

A Sewer Master Plan has been approved by Council for Humansdorp. The draft Basic Environmental Assessment Report for the upgrading and expansion of the St Francis Bay Waste Water Treatment Works has been completed.

The municipality will be upgrading the Cormorant Pump Station at Aston Bay as part of an ongoing programme to upgrade pump stations.

Housing

In July 2016  Human Settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August held a public meeting at Jeffreys Bay to introduce the company awarded the two-year contract to install internal services and build 220 houses at Pellsrus. The appointment of the contractor has not been finalised.

The company awarded the contract by the Department for the Ocean View 1500 project has withdrawn.

The only housing project on the go is Kruisfontein 391, where the internal services are being installed. Once this is complete and the list of beneficiaries has been finalised, the building of the actual houses will begin.

There is no clear timeframe as to when because of delays in finalising the beneficiary list. There have been delays in completing some of the bulk water and sewer projects that the Department undertook to fund to cater for other planned housing projects.

Environmental authorisation has been obtained for housing projects at Hankey, Weston and Arcadia, but there are many internal processes to be completed.  

The formalisation of Stofwolk at Hankey is one project being prioritised. The municipality will intensify engagements with the national and provincial Department of Public Works regarding informal settlements at Sea Vista that are situated on the Department’s land. This land needs to be transferred to the municipality so that the settlements can be formalised and services installed.

Safe

Some by-laws, including the Outdoor Advertising and Signage by-law need to be reviewed while new ones need to be developed to address the changing needs of communities. For example, the current ban on fireworks, coupled with the inability of the municipality to actually police this ban, has to be thoroughly debated so that a clear way forward can be determined in line with what communities want.

More than 200 stray animals were impounded from November 2016 to January 2017 and almost 500 complaints were investigated, ranging from illegal dumping to illegal hawkers and car guards.

In the long-term the vision is to establish a municipal court to improve by-law infringements.

A way to decrease the problem of stray animals, for example, is to identify land for commonages. A Commonage Plan must be developed.

The Local Drug Action Committee has been established and the municipality are in the process of forming a Community Safety Forum.

Ward-based risk assessments have been completed with the assistance of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality. The assessments will be incorporated into Kouga’s Disaster Management Plan to improve our readiness for any emergency situation.

The building of a satellite fire station at Oyster Bay will start soon and a fully equipped and staffed all-hours fire station, at St Francis Bay will be one of the priorities in the 2017/18 budgeting process.

The Traffic Department building is in serious need of a revamp and that the speed at which applications are processed is a concern. To speed up services the municipality has applied for additional live capturing units from the Department of Transport and are awaiting its response.

Only one of the two taxi associations currently operating in Kouga has the the legal right operate. In conjunction with the Department, Kouga Traffic officers will clamping down hard on illegal taxi operators to ensure the safety of commuters and communities.

Opportunity

Investor-friendly

In order to attract investors, grow the economy and boost job creation the municipality needs to make Kouga a welcoming destination for investors.

Among other plans, it is considering moving the Town Planning department back to Jeffreys Bay as part of a broader initiative to bring all the divisions of Kouga’s Infrastructure, Planning and Development Directorate together under one roof.

Special Projects

One of these Special Projects is the proposed nuclear build at Thyspunt. The municipality has secured a firm commitment form commitment from Eskom that Kouga and its people will not be left out of any developments around the proposed plant,” van Lingen said.

Meetings have been held with Eskom’s top nuclear brass to finalise a framework for a Project Steering Committee, which will be established should Thyspunt receive Environmental Authorisation. The committee will be co-chaired by the municipality and Eskom, and will be made up of various task teams who will monitor and manage specific aspects and impacts of the project.

The announcement of regarding environmental authorisation has been delayed several times and is now expected to be made in mid-June.

“On behalf of Council however, we will do everything we can to ensure this beautiful area does not become collateral damage in national government’s desperate drive for more power,” the mayor stressed.

She also said major reason for the municipality’s talks with the wind farms is to streamline their CSI programmes with the municipal IDP and to ensure this funding goes where most needed.

Tourism

Many of the beaches and beach facilities are in need of attention, with the bulk of the municipality’s efforts and Working for the Coast funding having gone into maintaining Blue Flag status for Dolphin Beach.

While looking after the Blue Flag beach is important, other beaches cannot be neglected. The municipality cannot turn a blind eye to the ongoing beach erosion at St Francis Bay.

The municipality is exploring the possibility of reviewing the Working for the Coast business plan so that some of the funding can be redirected to address critical coastal needs in St Francis Bay, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay.

Caring

To make it easier for residents to access the services the municipality offers, the municipality aims to have fully-functional ward councillor’s offices in all wards.

“We would like to see certain services, currently offered only at the main units, taken to outlying areas including Thornhill and Loerie to save people the expense of having to travel long distances.”

The Finance Directorate has begun visiting all wards to register households with an income of R3000 or less for service subsidies.

And other role-players to bring business-related services and advice to communities, will also be held.

The municipality is negotiating with the Eskom Development Foundation regarding the leasing of the Kouga Cultural Centre to set up as a one-stop shop for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

 

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