Councils in stoush as road agreement torn up

Councils in stoush as road agreement torn up

Hopkinson and Rowley Roads were two of the contested territories between the SJ Shire and City of Armadale.

The Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has torn up its long-standing agreement with the City of Armadale to share maintenance of six boundary roads.

The Memorandum of Understanding for Boundary Road Management was first drawn up in 1976 between the two neighbouring local governments.

It covers the shared responsibility of six roads; Rowley, Hopkinson, Hilbert, Keenan, Eleventh and North Rds.

According to the SJ Shire, there are no records to show how responsibility was divvied up.

“It is assumed the traffic generated from either side of the boundary road may have been a decision-making factor,” officers said.

But times have changed, and so too has the roads’ usage and each one’s respective wear and tear.

The SJ Shire has been keen to offload the $150,000 annual cost of maintenance for Rowley Rd (between Hopkinson and Nicholson) onto the City of Armadale.

They were also hoping to negotiate the transfer of North Rd, with its $6000 annual maintenance fee.

In return they would take back responsibility of Hopkinson Rd from the Rowley Rd intersection, with its $30,000 annual cost.

But ultimately under the deal the SJ Shire would have been much better off, with its asset liabilities reduced by a sum of $126,000 per year.

The two local governments officially sat down with each other twice to discuss the issue – once in 2021, and once last year – with no resolution.

Then late last year the SJ Shire discovered the agreement was not legally binding, and wrote to the City of Armadale to let them know, but that they would be willing to renegotiate regardless, “in the spirit of ongoing local government collaboration”.

Acting Chief Executive Officer for the City of Armadale Paul Sanders said they had “engaged shire representatives through several meetings to discuss the proposal. The last meeting being held at the end of August 2023.”

Armadale councillors also discussed the issue in a closed meeting in July.

Despite the many discussions over the course of two years, no new agreement had been struck.

From the City of Armadale’s perspective, taking on an additional $126,000 a year in road maintenance costs was an unfair request to be made of them.

“The Boundary Road Management Agreement is a long-standing arrangement from which the city and the shire have based its future operational plans and capital investments. If the shire wishes to seek an alteration to the current scope of responsibilities, it should be done so on a fair allocation of responsibilities and benefits,” Mr Sanders said.

Frustrated by the impasse, Cr Morgan Byas brought a motion to council to terminate the agreement “with immediate effect”.

SJ Shire Chief Executive Officer Paul Martin said he had called to let the City of Armadale know of the impending vote.

“I think it’s fair to say the CEO of the City of Armadale thought there was still an opportunity to move forward with renegotiation of an agreement, but I advised that we hadn’t actually heard back in writing from the City of Armadale since their decision, which she was somewhat surprised about,” he said.

On September 18, SJ councillors voted unanimously to rip up the agreement.

Each local government will now be solely responsible for the portions of roads that fall within their own district.