Don’t bank on Vincent

FORMER mayor Nick Catania has branded Vincent council immoral for voting to auction a community bus it received as a gift.

The bus was donated by the North Perth branch of the Bendigo Bank in 2009 and Mr Catania, who is chairman, says they might bid to get the bus back when it’s auctioned on July 6.

“There’s a moral aspect to this,” Mr Catania fumed.

“People will question what kind of councillors and mayor we have.”

Mr Catania said the community bus should never have been classed as an asset by the council.

“They should’ve returned it when they didn’t need it. It was for organisations and the people of Vincent to hire for a reasonable fee.

“That’s what community branches do – they give back to the community.”

After seeing the 22-seater bus “gathering dust” in the council depot, Mr Catania requested it be returned to the bank for free. The bank  then offered $20,000 to purchase it.

The city declined both requests and councillors voted to auction the bus during a council meeting on May 1.

During the meeting an earlier motion to sell the bus back to the bank for $1 was defeated; only getting support from councillors Jimmy Murphy and Josh Topelberg.

• The Bendigo Bank community bus was donated to Vincent council in 2009.

Immoral

Mr Catania says council is thinking more about “the dollars they could get for [the bus]”, than the community service it could still provide to organisations like North Perth Bowls Club and Multicultural Services.

Richard Camp, president of the bowls club, said he first heard about the community bus being underused at a club meeting at the beginning of this year.

Although it needed some minor work, Mr Camp said club members were keen to store the bus and lend it to other sporting clubs and organisations for local and interstate trips.

“It sounded like it could be a go for us,” Mr Camp says.

But he says the bus became “bogged down by bureaucracy” and he knew it was unlikely to end up at the club.

Vincent mayor Emma Cole told the Voice the bus wasn’t suitable for people with disabilities.

“Its inability to carry residents with a disability or mobility issues means that it is no longer suitable to be used as a community bus,” she said.

“We do not restrict access to our services for residents with a disability.”

Given the funds needed to maintain, service and clean the bus, it was also a costly asset that was being underused. In 2015/2016 the city spent $21,894 on the bus and in 2016/2017 another $12,055, but it was hired only twice.

Ms Cole says the city advertised the community bus adequately and maintained a web page for enquiries and bookings for nearly a decade.

While the city was grateful the bank donated the bus, she said selling it at public auction was the best way to avoid any perceived conflict of interest.

by WADE ZAGLAS

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