Motor inn owner grassed off about roadside dispute

Is the Murray Bridge council doing a good enough job of maintaining its roadsides? Not by half, says a business owner.

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Roadsides around the Murray Bridge district need to be kept at a higher standard, a local business owner says.

Murray Bridge Motor Inn’s Roman Rautenberg has had a gripe with the council for several years about the patch of dry grass out the front of his east side premises, fenced with perma-pine posts.

The posts are weathered, and all Mr Rautenberg wants is for the council to paint them.

Instead it plans to pull them out at a cost of $3360.

At a meeting last month, councillors were told that staff planned to maintain the area “to the minimum standards required”, and to remove the posts because they constituted a traffic hazard.

That was not good enough, Mr Rautenberg told Murray Bridge News.

He worried that removing the posts would only encourage trucks and cars to park in the area, kicking up dust and leaving rubbish.

“The bureaucrats are making the decisions and the council is following suit,” he said.

“It’s like the tail wagging the dog.

“You can’t tell me that with the staff they’ve got, the equipment they've got, they couldn’t come and spray (paint) the posts.”

Business had been bad lately, he said, and at 68 years of age he didn't have the energy to maintain the area to a proper standard any more.

Mr Rautenberg had previously leased the land from the council, meaning he would be entitled to look after it, but that agreement ran out last year.

Councillor Tyson Matthews brought the issue to the council’s attention in July, arguing that the council needed to “set the tone” for residents and businesses by taking pride in its public spaces.

“The land looks disheveled and unappealing,” he said at the time.

“I’d be unhappy if this land sat next to my business.”

‘Minimum standards were probably not being met’

In a report handed to councillors last month, the council’s city assets manager said the area was not worth any extra maintenance.

Unless sprinklers were installed, at great cost, keeping the grass short would only stir up dust.

“Unfortunately (Mr Rautenberg’s) request exceeds the current service standards for assets of this nature, and represents an increased level of service that cannot be provided within the approved budget,” he said in the report.

The manager did admit that “minimum standards were probably not being met in a number of areas throughout Murray Bridge” prior to 2019.

But the employment of an extra five grounds staff in 2019-20, and addition of five more by next July, had since done the trick, he suggested.

Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman told Murray Bridge News the extra staff were needed to maintain the parks that were being built along Adelaide and Swanport Roads, not so much to lift the standard of parks and roadsides elsewhere in the district.

“It’s a response to the significant improvements we’ve made to open space in the council area, and the need to maintain those improvements,” he said.

That came as small consolation to Mr Rautenberg.

He and the council will begin mediation about their disagreement next week.

Photos: Peri Strathearn.

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