Year in Review : Part 1
Wodonga Council is revisiting the year that was 2018.
In a two-part series, we will look at some of the highlights during the year to help reflect on some of the council's milestones and events over the past 12 months.
From work being carried out on a new green space for the city, to the Queen's baton passing through on its way to the Commonwealth Games in Queensland, it was an eventful year.
Stay tuned for the remaining six months, which will be published in January.
January - Australia Day awards
Wodonga Council named its Citizen of the Year - Uta Wiltshire, while Community Organisation of the Year went to the Border Ovarian Cancer Awareness Group and Young Citizen of the Year was awarded to Sheridan Williams. The awards were presented at the council’s annual Australia Day celebrations on January 26 at Les Stone Park.
Uta Wiltshire, pictured right, said it was a huge surprise to be nominated.
"It was great to be able to tell people what I was passionate about, being the Wodonga Historical Society," she said.
"I was extremely proud to be nominated for Citizen of the Year. Being a volunteer is not one of those roles done for accolades.
"We volunteer because we see a job that needs to be done."
Mrs Wiltshire is best known for her work with the Wodonga Historical Society as well as a variety of other roles in the community.
February - Hosted the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Queen's Baton
Wodonga residents lined the streets as the Queen's baton passed through the city on February 15, putting Wodonga on the world stage. From January 25 to March 2, the Queen's Baton visited every other state and territory before arriving in
Queensland. Wodonga celebrated with the baton's arrival, putting together a celebration at Junction Square.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) Queen's Baton Relay is the longest and most accessible in history, travelling through the Commonwealth for 388 days and 230,000 kilometres. After spending 100 days being carried by about 3,800 batonbearers in Australia, the Queen's Baton journey finished at the GC2018 Opening Ceremony on the Gold Coast on April 4, 2018.
Batonbearer Alannah McKeown (getting a hug from) Lauren Jackson after exchanging the Baton as the Queen's Baton Relay visited Wodonga.
March - Installation of two echidna sculptures in High St
Two new residents moved into High
St on March 27. The Parent and Baby echidnas look over people as they use the pedestrian crossing in the northern end of High St.
Sculptor Dean Bowen oversaw their arrival to Wodonga back in March.
The sculptures have been a hit with children.
A new High St sign and seating was also installed.
The work was part of the Federal Government National Stronger Regions funding which the council received for the city centre revitalisation.
April - Waste charges and the Ombudsman's report
The council was subject to an investigation by the Victorian Ombudsman into waste management charges in early 2018.
In April, the council received notice that Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass had tabled her investigation.
The council accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations and has begun the process of implementing those recommendations as part of the 2018-2019 budget process.
Also in April - High St North work completed
Wodonga Council received National Stronger Regions Funding from the Federal Government to conduct works in the CBA, which included the completion of works in High St.
Work was completed in the northern end of High St and the intersection with South St in April.
The works included the reconstruction of High St from Bond St to South St which upgraded underground services in the area.
The works also included landscaping, beautification and new street lighting, the undergrounding of overhead cables and reconstruction of Bond St.
Also in April - New Council Chamber used for the first time
The council marked two important milestones in April with the opening of the new ground floor chamber and the first council meeting to be live streamed.
Now located on the ground floor of the Hovell St building, the new Council Chamber offers increased accessibility including a hearing loop, new public toilets (including a parents room/disabled toilet) and the ability to live stream.
The new area also pays its respects to our Aboriginal community with the words Badjerri Yawadi, which in the local Aboriginal dialect means “good talk”, featuring on the entrance to the chamber as well as art from local Aboriginal artists Marlene Plunkett, Phil Murray and Karen McMillan on the walls with the national apology presented to the council by the Wodonga Aboriginal Network.
May - Installation of countdown signals
Wodonga Council installed new countdown signals at High St and Elgin Blvd pedestrian crossing.
Feedback from residents and retailers at the time was that the countdown signals had made a massive improvement to that intersection.
June - Effective zero rate rise in adopted council budget
Wodonga Council’s 2018-2019 budget was adopted at the June council meeting with an effective zero per cent rate rise.
The budget will deliver the final stage of the High St reconstruction, planning for a new cultural precinct, seating and bubblers on pathways, playground upgrades, car park improvements and the upgrade of the CBD connector on the High Country rail trail.
While rates and charges will rise in line with the Victorian Government cap of 2.25%, a reduction in the waste management charge of $51.20 means the average residential ratepayer will see a 0.14 per cent drop on their total rates bill.
The council had identified savings for a $12.20 reduction in the waste levy in the draft budget. Through the consultation process, further savings were identified to reduce the charge by a further $39, for a total of $51.20, without any significant impact on the community while taking the first steps of implementing the Ombudsman’s recommendation.
Wodonga Mayor Cr Anna Speedie said the council had heard and listened to the community and continued to work on the best possible budget for the community.
“With the variety of ways we have for our community to have their say, we heard from dozens of people about what they want for Wodonga,” Cr Speedie said.
“With continued work and looking at the many programs and projects the council undertakes and further understanding of the depth of the council’s operations, we have been able to put forward a budget that has achieved savings and offers the same level of service, while funding projects to cater for our growing city. There are no new borrowings.
“The council passed a motion to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations within two years and this budget allows us to take a huge first step in making that happen."
Also in June - House Creek Bridge installed
In June, Wodonga Council installed a striking red bow arch bridge across House Creek, parallel to Melbourne Road, replacing the timber suspension bridge.
The 32-metre, nine-tonne steel bridge was brought in from Yackandandah via a truck and took about 30 minutes to put into place and install.
A crane lifted the bridge from the truck and placed on the footings and bolted into place.
The previous timber suspension bridge, which was built in 1993, was deemed a safety risk with deteriorating bridge footings.
At the November council meeting, a contract was awarded to Yackandandah bridge builder Nelmac at a cost of $193,000.
Nelmac beat five other companies for the bridge with the lowest tender.
* Don't forget to check out the remaining six months, which we will publish in January.