Kiama Council rejects claims it failed to deliver footbridge project

The bridge over Hyams Creek in Jamberoo. A second footbridge is to be put in on the right-hand side of the road. Picture: Google Maps
The bridge over Hyams Creek in Jamberoo. A second footbridge is to be put in on the right-hand side of the road. Picture: Google Maps

Kiama Council has rejected claims it has failed to deliver a project to build a $191,000 footbridge in Jamberoo.

Three years ago, the footbridge on the western side of Churchill Street over Hyams Creek was promised to community members, and due to be finished by December, 2018.

Jamberoo locals had lobbied for a footbridge due to safety concerns, following the death of a pedestrian on the road several years ago.

In an email to the Jamberoo Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association, Cr Neil Reilly said there were aspects of the project that would impact the completion time of the project. 

"There are also matters of the installation that have created serious concerns in the area of workplace health and safety and the overall safety of the finished bridge.

"I am sorry to give you this news, as it far exceeds our undertaking to have it in place by now.

"We all believe that if things have gone wrong, and they have, it’s best to openly admit that and strive to correct the situation in a practical and safe manner." 

In response to Cr Reilly's claims, Kiama Council said there were no shortcomings with the design, and it would be completed by August this year. 

"Minor changes have been made to the detailed design during the planning and design process, as is the case with most major infrastructure projects," a spokesperson said. "The fabrication of the bridge structure has now been completed and is in the process of being sandblasted, x-rayed and painted."

Council also rejected claims the bridge was impacting on workplace health and safety.

"Council has an impeccable record when it comes to workplace health and safety and there have been no issues or matters regarding this project," a spokesperson said. 

Council conceded the project was running behind schedule. 

"This is true of a number of council projects at this time. This is as much a result of careful budgeting, by ensuring council projects are properly funded before works commence," the spokesperson said. "In fact, council chose to fabricate this footbridge in-house, which has saved ratepayers a significant amount of money. The cost to the community has been the additional time it has taken to achieve these savings."

Council's director of engineering and works Gino Belsito, tasked to facilitate the project, has been on extended leave for nine weeks.

Another task administered by Mr Belsito, the Minnamurra River Cycleway and Boardwalk project, has also come under scrutiny from members of the public. 

When the Kiama Independent asked council to explain why the director of engineering and works was unable to fulfill his role, the response was, "He is on leave".

Council said Darren Brady was acting on his behalf. Council said Mr Belsito's leave did not have anything to do with the project delays.