RCAG Meeting 4/5/2016

Quarterly Meeting

4th May 2016, 7.30 pm, Ruffy Mechanics Hall

MINUTES

1. Welcome: The President specially welcomed Cr Robin Weatherald, Gary Washusen (Shire of Strathbogie) and Paul Verbeek (CFA Region) to this meeting.

Present: Cr Robin Weatherald, Cathy Artridge, Sharron Batt, John Furlanetto, Kerry Hewlett, Henry Noye, David Sleigh, Pam Sprunt, Erwin and Verena Weinmann.

Apologies: Cr Colleen Furlanetto, Don Cook, Gerry Ginnivan, Justus Hagen

2. Ruffy Neighbourhood Safer Place (NSP):

The President introduced the topic by referring back to discussions at a previous RCAG meeting on the possibility of moving the Ruffy NSP to the fire station, and a follow up letter to the Shire of Strathbogie with community feedback. The two guest speakers then gave further background on the role of NSPs and reported on more recent developments regarding the Ruffy NSP. Gary Washusen, the Council Emergency Manager and Fire Prevention Officer explained that NSPs were places of last resort and that the Shire’s NSP Plan set out the roles and responsibilities of the Shire. The CFA is involved in the suitability assessment, and inputs from the community are considered in making a final decision on the most suitable location. Paul Verbeek, the CFA’s Brigade’s Support Officer, whose responsibilities include assessment of NSPs, then reported on recent assessment of the suitability of the Ruffy Fire Station as a NSP. The assessment indicated that this location would satisfy requirements relating to radiant heat but Paul expressed concerns regarding other aspects of this location. The main problem would be that this area could become very crowded, if in addition to CFA member cars and strike teams from other brigades there would also be members of the Ruffy community parking their cars in this area and potentially blocking access. Both speakers stressed that NSPs were places of last resort not a community gathering place to provide services and comfort. NSPs provide a safer place for people to stay for a relatively short time during the passing of the fire front. However, the best option for community members who are not defending their property is to leave the area early.

The President then opened the Ruffy NSP issue for discussion. A previously identified significant issue is the lack of communication at the current NSP. During a serious fire event communication by mobile phone cannot be assured, and while UHF is an option, this should not interfere with UHF communications for CFA operations.  John Furlanetto, Ruffy CFA Captain, explained the exposure of the Ruffy township to fires started by ember attacks and that the only option to reduce the fire hazard was to reduce the fuel load in and around the township. The current location of the NSP at the Recreation ground, with grass areas regularly kept at 100 mm height and open paddocks adjoining it, provides a relatively safe area to survive the passing of the fire front in a car. While there is only one road in, there are four points to get out and escape routes through paddocks without needing to cross creek lines and being exposed to the danger of traffic accidents. The most secure way to ensure communication would be to install a landline phone.

In relation to providing safer access from the Ruffy township to the NSP, Gary Washusen informed that 17 dangerous trees along Bunting Hill Road to Noye Lane had been identified to be either removed or their overhanging branches taken off. This follows from recommendations by the Royal Commission, and Council has made available about $25,000 for this work. Council has submitted this proposal to DELWP for approval and is also consulting with Janet Hagen to address concerns and potential conflicts, particularly in relation to phascogale habitat. The President expressed the hope that conflicts could be resolved and that both the safe access and habitat conservation objectives could be achieved.

Further points raised in the discussions included:

  • During a serious fire event people would seek the comfort of the company of others to reduce their stress, so they would tend to gather wherever they would find other people.

  • Informing the community about the location and role of the NSP is important both before and during a fire. It would be desirable to inform the community about the reasons for the current choice of NSP location and of the outcomes of tonight’s discussions, perhaps by mail box drop.

  • This information could also be communicated at a Fire Ready meeting before the start of the next fire season.

  • The meeting agreed to request the CFA to do an assessment of the suitability of alternative NSP sites at the Ruffy Mechanics Hall and the Old School. This would provide a benchmark to indicate what fuel reduction works would be required, and would also indicate what could be done to more generally reduce the fire hazard in the township. The Shire and CFA representatives accepted this request.

  • After receiving the results of these additional assessments, the Ruffy community will then need to reconsider the NSP options and make a decision. Cr Weatherald stressed that it was important for the Ruffy community to give a clear message to Council so that the available resources could be directed at implementing the agreed Ruffy NSP option.

  • Gary Washusen informed that the Ruffy township is being inspected at the start of the fire season, and if the fine fuel load on a property was excessive, the owner would receive a fire prevention notice which, if not complied with, would attract a $1440 fine.

The President and John Furlanetto offered to prepare a draft information sheet for Ruffy residents and submit it to Gary Washusen for comments before distributing it as a mailbox drop.

The President thanked the representatives of the Council and CFA for giving their time to inform the Ruffy community on fire safety issues, and especially thanked Gary Washusen for what he had done for our community in his various roles with the Shire. On behalf of RCAG he wished him well for his forthcoming retirement.

3. Confirmation of Minutes:

The minutes of the February 2016 meeting had been sent out by email and were also tabled at this meeting. The minutes were then confirmed, moved by Kerry Hewlett, seconded by Sharron Batt and signed by the President.

4. Business arising from the Minutes:

a) Ruffy History Sign: Cathy Artridge reported from the working group for this project (Cathy, Colleen Furlanetto and Kerry Hewlett). The aim of this sign is to provide information on the history of the Ruffy area through text and photos of sites of interest, with a map to show their location. The relatively large sign will be placed in a central location (yet to be decided). An allocation of $2,500 for the sign is in this year’s budget but it is proposed to defer this to the next financial year. The working group will now collate suitable information to be included on the sign. The selected information will then be given to a graphic designer, and quotes for the production of the sign will be obtained. Cr Weatherald reminded that grants up to $5,000 could be available from the Shire (closing date 8 July 2016). As a second stage of the project, smaller signs with more detailed information could be placed at individual sites.

b) Boathole Project : Verena Weinmann reported on behalf of the working group (Justus Hagen, Don Cook and Verena) on recent developments with this project and distributed a scotch map of the proposal. The first stage to be completed next financial year includes a picnic table with benches and closing off access to the area with some barrier that includes a locked access gate. Access for water tankers to refill will remain unobstructed. A sign will clearly indicate that it is a Day Picnic Area and request rubbish to be taken away. An additional sign explaining the history of the area will be part of a later stage of the project, which will also include a fishing/observation platform. Don Cook is in the process of consulting with adjacent landholders. Cr Weatherald informed that the plans had been shown to Councillors who had expressed their support. The next stage is now to prepare an information sheet of the proposal which will be distributed with a future issue of the Granite News. This will include a contact name for any queries or comments.

c) Brochure for new residents: Verena Weinmann reported that she had contacted Kylie Dowell who is responsible for the Shire’s “Resident’s Information Pack”. A new version of this information was just being printed and will be given to newcomers to the Shire. Unfortunately we were too late to include any additional information for Ruffy residents.  During discussion of how to best serve new Ruffy residents the following points were made:

  • The information pack is very nicely presented and includes much useful information for the Shire as a whole.

  • Possible additional information for Ruffy in the next issue includes a map, details of groups active in Ruffy and contact details for hiring of venues.

  • As contact information for community groups may change frequently it would be better to just refer prominently to the Ruffy Community website for this information.

  • We should use the opportunity offered to provide feedback and additional information for Ruffy residents so that it can be included in next year’s issue.

d) Water Supply Main Road: There was considerable discussion about an appropriate watering system to ensure the survival of the trees on the southern side of the main road. It was acknowledged that watering may still be necessary during the dry season, and David Sleigh was thanked for his watering efforts in previous seasons. It was resolved that the $500 should be used to buy the material required to allow running a hose from a tap point in front of the TCC or the Hall to the trees requiring watering. David Sleigh offered to arrange for this material to be bought before the end of this financial year. Sharron Batt offered to assist with watering when required.

e) Communications Project: John Furlanetto reported that a repeater station for UHF had been installed at Peter Saglietti’s place, funded by him and CFA, and this had significantly improved UHF reception in a wide area around Ruffy. The CFA will get a registered band within Channels 41 to 80 for more exclusive operational conversations, but other community members will be able to listen in. Future enhancements may require funding inputs from RCAG but not for the coming financial year.

5. Correspondence:

Out: email to Robbie Rae, Shire of Strathbogie, 30 March 2016, regarding Residents Information Pack.

In: Ruffy Artfest, 22 April 2016, requesting contribution to this year’s Ruffy Artfest to cover set up costs (acknowledged by President with email 23 April 2016)

Ruffy Mechanics’ Institute Reserve Inc., 1 May 2016 – Invitation to the unveiling of the memorial plaque on 22 May 2016, 2pm.

Verena moved that the correspondence be received, seconded by Pam Sprunt.

5a Shire News:

Cr Weatherald reported that this year there would be no ‘budget show’ in Ruffy but he left a copy of the long term plan and the draft budget for information (a copy of these papers is available on the Shire’s website). There will be a new valuation this year with upwards changes but the rate increase has been capped at 2.5%. Considerable savings in administration costs has let to a good surplus. $10m will be spent on roads and bridges to deal with the backlog of programmed works and maintenance.  He informed that Ruffy residents would be eligible for access to waste management services. This is voluntary for rural properties and the annual costs for weekly three bin service is $500. If a significant number of properties would take up this serviced the Red Gate Lane collection could be eventually terminated, with considerable savings to the Shire. Green wastes are being composted efficiently by contractors and converted into commercial products. The suggestion was made to put discussion of this new service on the agenda of the next RCAG meeting and perhaps invite a guest speaker from the Shire.

Cr Weatherald also commented briefly on the gaming machines issue for Euroa and why had voted against the planning proposal. He then left the meeting and was thanked by the President for his attendance and generally for his support of the Ruffy Community.

4. Treasurer’s Report:

Copies of the Treasurer’s report for the period February 2016 to May 2016 were handed out.

Balance as of 4/5/16:  RCAG funds $4,413.31  /  Walking Track fund $4,685.77  / Memorial Fund $300.00.

It was clarified that the RCAG funds included the unspent Shire allocation for the current financial year as well as $1,000 deferred from last year’s allocation. There are 2 outstanding accounts for materials for finishing the Ruffy Memorial area, totalling $455.87 to be partly funded from the $300 in the Memorial Fund.

Kerry Hewlett moved that the treasurer’s report be accepted, seconded Henry Noye.

7. RCAG projects for 2015/16 and beyond:

Projects funded from 2015/16 allocation:

  • Heater for Rec Reserve $1,000

  • TCC – Bore ($1,000), Playground ($500) $1,500

  • Admin (including Website) ca $500

Remaining funds for 2015/16 of $4,413 to be spent as follows:

  • Ruffy History Sign $2,500 (to be deferred to 2016/17)

  • Streetscape (Water Supply) $500

  • Ruffy Hall roof repairs $1,000

  • Carry over $413

The new item for repairs Ruffy Hall roof was discussed and a motion to allocate $1,000 towards these costs (moved Erwin Weinmann, seconded David Sleigh) was carried. The Hall Committee to submit an invoice for this expenditure.

$455.87 for materials to finish the Ruffy Memorial area to be covered by $300 already in the RCAG accounts for this purpose plus $155.87 made available by Pam Sprunt from the proceeds of raffles.

Votes of thanks were expressed for the people contributing to finishing the Ruffy Memorial project: Erwin and Verena Weinmann for constructing the rock wall, Bill Eddy for donating rocks from his property, Don McLean for landscaping with his bobcat, John Furlanetto for delivering crushed rock, and Pam Sprunt and Don Cook for helping at the working bee.

Projects to be funded from 2016/17 allocation:

At this stage the following projects have been mentioned for possible funding support: Ruffy History Sign Ruffy Artfest 2016, Boathole project, TCC Playground (soft fall). As the actual allocation from the Shire is not known yet, it was decided that decisions on 2016/17 funding would be deferred to the August meeting of RCAG. As soon as the Shire allocation is known, the Secretary will write to groups inviting them to submit proposals for funding for consideration at that meeting.

8. Reports from Community Groups:

Due to the advanced time this agenda item was cut short. Sharron Batt informed that the next RuffArtZ concert will be on 29th May, the Melbourne Guitar Quartet.

9. General Business:

None

10. Next quarterly meeting and AGM: Wednesday, 3rd August 2016, 7.30 pm at the TCC.

Meeting closed 21.50 pm.

Jacqui Hagen