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Emerald bus shelter: your questions answered

Published: 22 July 2016

Council addresses the community's questions and concerns about the Emerald bus shelter.

Council and Emerald Community House have met regarding this issue and are confident that a resolution in the best interests of the community will be reached very shortly. We hope to provide an update to the local community in the week commencing Monday 25 July.

Q. What are Council’s plans for the mosaic artwork mounted in the bus shelter currently located outside Emerald Community House (ECH)?

A. To preserve it for the community.

Council recognises that the local community values the artwork mounted in the bus shelter. Council has always intended to preserve this mosaic. It will be carefully removed prior to the bus shelter being replaced.

So that the community can continue to enjoy the artwork, Council would prefer to relocate the mosaic to a prominent location on the ECH site, in agreement with the ECH committee.

On Tuesday 12 July, Council emailed the chair of the ECH committee to request that it nominate a location on its site for the relocation of the artwork, within five working days. The shelter will not be removed until the artwork is removed. Council is yet to receive a response from ECH to this correspondence.

Q. Why is Council replacing the bus shelter?

A. To address public safety concerns.

All bus shelters have a limited life due to exposure to weather conditions. The bus shelter outside ECH is about 20 years old and is well past its useful life.

The bus shelter’s frame, which is made of thin tubular steel, has been affected by substantial corrosion (rust) and is now a risk to public safety. While it may appear structurally okay, this rust is hidden under several layers of paint applied by ECH.

All bus shelters in Cardinia Shire are inspected as part of Council’s annual maintenance program. This bus shelter is one of seven to be replaced in the hills area over the coming months.

Council requested an independent assessment of the bus shelter by a reputable structural engineering firm. The engineer’s report recommended replacing the shelter as it poses an immediate community safety risk. In particular, the roof structure has been weakened by structural rust and is at risk of failing. The report expresses concern that if someone climbs on the structure or hangs onto the roof, the shelter could collapse. In addition, the roof of the shelter does not meet Australian Standards for roof loading.

Below is an extract from the engineer’s report:

“Based on our inspections we consider the Shelter is at the end of its useful life unless extensive strengthening works are carried out.

The corrosion in the outer face of the roof beams, where they cantilever out from the support frame, is in critical locations and has compromised the structural integrity of the roof support frame.

The beams in their present condition do not comply with current Australian Standards for roof loading.

The beams could fail if a person was to get onto the roof or if they were to hang from the cantilevering sections of roof.

We would recommend that if the shelter is to remain in place for the short term then suitable signage is installed to ensure people do not get on or hang from the roof.”

Council is responsible for ensuring its facilities and equipment, used by the community, do not pose a threat to public safety. For this reason, it would be negligent of Council not to act on the recommendations of the engineer’s report.

ECH has provided Council with a copy of a report prepared by a builder. This report states the shelter ‘is in sound condition’ and ‘requires maintenance’, but does not contain a structural assessment of the shelter.

Q. Has Council tried to work with Emerald Community House to come up with another solution?

A. Yes, but Council's proposal was rejected.

On 22 March 2016 (prior to the independent structural engineer’s report which recommended the replacement of the bus shelter), Council officers presented a proposal to the Emerald Village Committee (EVC) meeting. Many ECH committee members were also present at this meeting.

The proposal included the following:

  • Due to the current age and condition of the existing bus shelter, Council proposes that the seating be removed and that it be preserved as an important community art piece into the future.
  • Council will continue to work with the Emerald Community House towards the development of an agreement regarding the care and maintenance of the public art piece. It is intended that Council would maintain responsibility for the structural integrity of the shelter. This agreement is likely to form part of the service agreement that Council currently has with the community house.
  • Council will install a new heritage style bus shelter. Officers will install the traditional style shelter at additional cost to Council and the community, as it is felt that this will better suit the village streetscape of Emerald. This is also in response to previous feedback from some members of the community that the PTV supplied glass shelter is not considered desirable, although the shelter is provided at no cost by PTV.
  • There will be no material posted on the existing bus shelter or ‘community art piece’ as it will be known in the future.

This proposal was rejected in its entirety by ECH in correspondence dated 7 April 2016:

“Emerald Community House Committee rejects Council's proposal to install a new shelter in front of the existing community art shelter or anywhere near our place of business.”

Q. Who owns the bus shelter?

A. Council owns, manages and maintains the bus shelter.

Council owns and is responsible for the maintenance of this bus shelter. This was confirmed by representatives from Public Transport Victoria (PTV) at a meeting held on 12 April. Representatives from Emerald Community House were present at that meeting.

Q. Does Emerald Community House have legal rights over the bus shelter?

A. No. Council owns, manages and maintains the bus shelter.

Council is aware of several claims by ECH that it has had management and maintenance rights over the shelter for some time. This is not the case. Council has been maintaining the shelter since Council erected the shelter more than 20 years ago. There is not, and has never been, any agreement with ECH regarding its use of the bus shelter, which has always been Council’s responsibility to maintain.

While Council acknowledges that ECH has contributed to the appearance of this shelter over a number of years, no formal maintenance agreement exists for ECH to manage this community asset.

Q. Can the bus shelter be used as a community noticeboard?

A. No. The structure is intended for use, and should only be used, as a bus shelter.

Posting of notices on a Council asset without approval is a breach of the Local Law. Council advised Emerald Community House on 7 April, 2016 that its continued posting of notices on the shelter was in breach of the Local Law and asked the committee to abstain from further posting of material.

See except from the letter:

“Council wishes to officially inform you that posting of such material by the ECH and others is a contravention of Local Law 17 and attracts associated penalties.

As such, it is Council’s intention to continue to remove illegal material from the bus shelter and other shelters similarly affected. Offenders who persist in illegally posting material in the bus shelter, do so on the understanding that they may incur penalties under the Local Law. Employees of the ECH engaging in contravening behaviour also put the ECH itself at risk of prosecution.

Council wishes to officially instruct the ECH to abstain from further posting of material and to cease the encouragement of other community members to do the same from this point on (three days from the date of this letter). In addition, the ECH should seek approval in writing of the owner (Council) should it wish to make any alterations to the Council-owned asset.”

Q. Has Council consulted in decision making about the bus shelter?

A. Yes.

Council consulted with Emerald Village Committee, a community group which represents the residents of Emerald, over several months. On all occasions, representatives from Emerald Community House were present. It is fair to say that on each of these occasions, ECH representatives were not pleased and made their views known.

Q. Is Council planning to install a heritage-style shelter then replace it with a glass shelter?

A. No.

Council’s preference has always been to replace the current bus shelter with a glass shelter to be installed and maintained by PTV, as this would not require funding by Council or consequently, our ratepayers.

However, some months ago Council also presented the Emerald Village Committee with the option of a heritage-style shelter. At its meeting on Tuesday 28 June, EVC resolved to support Council’s decision to replace the bus shelter and passed a motion requesting that a heritage-style shelter be installed, to complement the look and feel of the Emerald township.

Council agreed to this request. ECH’s recent claim that Council will replace the heritage-style shelter with a glass shelter shortly after its installation is not correct; this is absolutely not Council’s intention.

The heritage-style shelter sourced for installation has been reconditioned and is in ‘as-new’ condition. Most importantly, it is accessible for people with disabilities, unlike the current shelter which, with a bench seat which runs to its full width, does not provide all-ability access or comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.

The replacement shelter has three seats; some seating has been removed to meet PTV accessibility requirements.

Q. Does Public Transport Victoria (PTV) have a role in regard to bus shelters?

A. PTV maintains many bus shelters, however it has no responsibility for this shelter.

Each year, Council submits a list of shelters that have reached the end of their life to PTV. PTV then installs and maintains standard glass shelters at these locations, at no cost to Council.

Council is aware that a letter has been circulated via social media addressed to ECH from PTV. This letter states that PTV has not required the replacement of this specific bus shelter and that this is a matter for Cardinia Shire Council, as the asset owner, to determine. The letter is dated prior to the independent structural assessment which recommends replacement of the shelter.

Council consulted with PTV regarding accessibility compliance in bus shelters to ensure that the replacement shelter meets PTV standards.

Q. Has Council rejected mediation?

A. No.

In correspondence dated 7 April 2016, ECH invoked a dispute on the basis of a complaint against its funding and service agreement with Council. As the issue of the bus shelter does not fall under the terms of the funding and service agreement, Council notified ECH that no dispute exists in this realm.

Since that time, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has offered to broker dispute resolution between Council and ECH. Council agreed to this mediation on 9 June 2016. Council also requested that the dispute resolution/mediation address the other disputes that the ECH has to date raised with Council and that it has a focus on moving forward with a better relationship rather than dwelling on the past.

Q. Have the protesters at the bus shelter site been asked by Council to remove their tents and camping equipment?

A. Yes.

On Thursday 14 July, ECH was directed to remove all tents and camping equipment from the bus shelter site, to comply with Local Law 17. Council issued this direction because it had received several complaints from community members who said it was difficult or impossible to use the bus shelter due to the protesters’ set-up. The protesters complied with the direction. At no time have the protesters themselves been asked to move on.

Q. Is Emerald Community House committee a delegated committee of Council?

A. No.

Emerald Community House has recently stated in social media that it has authority to post materials in the bus shelter under Council’s signage policy because the policy says:

“Prior to the display of these signs, consent must be obtained from the relevant land owner (being a private property owner, Cardinia Shire Council or its delegated Committee of Management)”.

ECH is not a delegated committee of Cardinia Shire Council and has no authority to make decisions regarding Council assets. The signage policy cited on social media refers to constructed signs and not paper notices.

Q. What funding does Council provide to Emerald Community House?

A. Council provides significant funding support to ECH.

Council provides ECH with premises for a significantly reduced rental rate. Council also provides more than $30,000 per year in operational funding and has a history of providing capital grants and wellbeing grants totalling many thousands of dollars each year. Council is a major funder of the PAVE festival and Emerald Funfest event though its festivals and events grants.

Council also provides all the external and structural maintenance for buildings on the property, and the IT hardware and internet access for ECH.

Q. What will happen now?

A. Council has written to ECH with an offer to relocate the mosaic artwork on the site currently occupied by the community house at an agreed prominent location, and it awaits their response.

As recommended by the structural engineer’s report, signage has been installed on the existing shelter to advise the general public of safety concerns relating to the shelter.

Once the artwork has been removed, Council will proceed to schedule works to remove the existing shelter and replace it with a heritage-style shelter located closer to the bus stop.

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