COUNCILLORS who promised at the September 9 election to fix the city’s roads will have to think seriously about how they will deliver, according to a hot mix plant advocate.
Councillor Jeff Whitton put a motion to Tuesday’s Orange City Council meeting for the plant, which has attracted an early cost estimate of $10 million.
Cr Whitton said while jet patching was the industry standard, Orange had special needs because it was built on a swamp, roads moved and hot mix had proven effective.
He pointed to the staff report to councillors, which said hot mix was a superior road repair and construction product and council would “undoubtedly benefit” from a facility within its boundaries for convenience, transport cost and quality.
“So here is one of our engineering staff who knows this stuff better than I do, backwards and forwards, actually making a summary that it would be a great asset,” he said.
“Of course it costs more, but you get your payback in less maintenance, you’re not constantly going back and repairing it and the residents of Orange wouldn’t complain about the cost of it because they know it would benefit them and they know what it’s like to drive on it.”
Councillor Glenn Taylor, who seconded the motion, said the money could be easily recoverable over time because the council and its contractors would no longer have to make two- and four-hour round trips to Bathurst and Dubbo respectively to pick up hot mix.
“The transport costs would be significant, so I see it as a win-win,” he said.
“There would be short-term pain as far as the establishment cost but I think overall, we’d pick it up.”
The proposal also had support from mayor Reg Kidd, who said a partnership could be pursued with Cabonne and Blayney councils or private enterprise, with a possible option to onsell the material to other Centroc councils.
“If you look at the amount of roads we have now and the amount of roads that are being developed in Orange and if you look at our asset management plan and look at the gradings in our roads and the work that does have to be done over the ensuring years, I’m quite sure that this will pay for itself in the long run,” he said.
Deputy mayor Joanne McRae queried whether it would be a sound investment.
“I think the report is quite clear there are questions around commercial viability, the set-up costs are one factor, but the ongoing costs need to be considered,” she said.
“The final point to consider, is hot mix going to be the solution for the future or is it the best solution for now and are there opportunities to look at emerging technologies in road building and perhaps that’s an opportunity for Orange to set a niche rather than necessarily stay with what seems to be a simple and popular option but may not actually be the best decision going forward.”
Councillor Russell Turner shared the concerns, saying he wanted a business case before he would agree to commit funds.
“We’ve got the basalt reasonably close, but we haven’t got the other materials reasonably close and there must be some reason why the operators at Dubbo are scaling down their plant and why we closed ours down,” he said.
Closing the debate, Cr Whitton reminded councillors most ran for election two months ago on a platform of fixing roads.
“I raised it in the last council and it got knocked over, I’ll raise it again in this council and we are going to move forward with a business case, but I’ll say this: anybody who’s going to run for council at the next election better think long and hard about how they’re going to fix the roads because if they don’t consider a hot mix facility then we might be in the same boat,” he said.
The business case will be brought back to the council.