What I’d like in this year’s MVCC budget – small requests

Street

I have read the MVCC budget. It’s a complex corpus of numbers, and I need to take another look to understand what all the numbers actually mean.

But three events in the last few weeks have given me a clear wish-list of items I would like to see funded in the MVCC budget.

They are not mega-infrastructure requests, and shouldn’t require millions in federal funding. They are small requests that would make the lives of residents, like me, a little easier.

  1. A utilities nagging service

First on my wish list is a funded position at council for a professional ‘nagger’. Specifically someone to nag the operators of utilities to attend to reported problems.

Several months ago I noticed water running down our street. It was some distance from my house and I assumed residents closer to the issue would have it dealt with.

Weeks passed and the water was still running. It reached our home. It ran past our home and down the length of an adjacent street.

I inspected the site and saw a fire hydrant, sodden nature strips, cracks in the road, and a hole in the road from which water was steadily pouring.

Hydrant

I took photos and sent them to MVCC asking for someone to please see if City West Water could attend to the issue.

Nine days later, I had no response.

So I called City West Water who had no contact from MVCC – and had the issue logged as a completed job, in February. It was a leaky fire hydrant. I said the job wasn’t completed.

So I waited for action – and nothing.

I spoke with neighbours who said they had been contacting council and CWW for months – possibly as long as 12 months.

CWW contractors finally arrived and found a split water main which needed replacing.

Meanwhile, MVCC apologised for not responding to my earlier email to the MVCC general email address. I only got a response from them because I asked a councillor to follow up.

But more frustratingly, MVCC said they had no responsibility for, jurisdiction over, or power with respect to having local water issues attended to. I assume that also goes for electricity, gas, sewerage and other utilities.

Given the spilt water main eventually required the road to be dug up and replaced – then causing telecommunications issues which also needed to be addressed via the road – I reckon council should have more interest in its assets (the road) and its residents.

So – I propose the budget funds a couple of professional naggers at MVCC to help residents out by getting CWW and other operators to fix issues before they cause bigger issues. I would happily take on that role.

2. Library booking service

To cut this long story short, I would like MVCC to fund changes to their website to allow people to make online bookings for microfilm access.

Such a small change would have saved me the hour that I wasted today getting to the library to be told I couldn’t use the microfilm because it was booked.

It would have been useful to have been told I should make a booking when I called the library to ask whether the research I needed to do was available via the microfilm.

Again, I would be very happy to set up said service on the MVCC website to help people like me who have limited time to waste because essential information – like ‘you need to make a booking by phone’ – is not conveyed … and no booking system exists online.

Confusing. But I’ll move on because I’m sure that’s only of interest to the 20 people in MVCC who do actually use the microfilm. If they have booked. And I have limited time.

3. Funding council staff to receive feedback

I bet there are small issues like those above that you also have with council. They are little matters – some may say petty – but they make a difference to people’s daily experiences.

Yet when I have tried to provide feedback to council on issues such as these, I have been met with a degree of defensiveness – which is unfortunate.

Feedback is a good thing. It is claimed that feedback is the number one factor determining whether children learn effectively. Feedback is how the body works. Feedback is good. It helps us improve.

I was recently randomly selected to complete the MVCC community survey. It asked me for feedback, but also asked me how many servings of fruit and vegies I ate per day. Go figure.

Fruit and vegies

Despite feedback sometimes being sought via surveys and ‘consultation’, I’ve run in to situation recently where my feedback to council has appeared unwanted.

Council did not like me suggesting a different way of managing issues with City West Water. I was told MVCC had no responsibility or power to manage the water-logged road.

The library staff did not like me suggesting it would have been helpful to be told I needed to call to book the microfilm computer. The (otherwise very nice and helpful) staff member said nothing and walked away. (I walked away too).

And more profoundly, when I recently sent council extensive feedback to the MV2040 and asking questions about the community consultation for the Flemington Community Hub, I did not get the sense my feedback was welcome.

Four hours spent reading MV2040 and writing feedback – and my concerns appeared to be flicked away with suggestion such as reading the long term capital works budget – which told me nothing more.

Many of my comments about the lack of detail in the long term capital works plan were met with a defensive position and responses that did not make matters any clearer.

I was told to keep an open mind. Ok. I will. I am open minded about council accepting feedback and improving.

So, my third suggestion is that council funds several experts in customer service and responding to feedback to facilitate continued improvement, and yield happy residents.

What’s on your budget wish-list?

Postscript: this commentary is more about council’s response to feedback rather than the wonderful work customer service staff do responding to queries and requests for help. I’ve rung council most recently when our cat went missing – and the staff who answered my call were wonderful. 

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