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CASEY mayor Sam Aziz has apportioned blame on two councillors – rather than the council administration – for sub-standard soccer pitches and club rooms at Jack Thomas Reserve, Narre Warren North.
In a statement after last week’s Star News report, Cr Aziz said the ward’s councillors – Cr Rafal Kaplon and Cr Rosalie Crestani – “should be lobbying in the budget process” for infrastructure.
The reserve, home to Casey’s largest soccer club Berwick City, is blighted by a shortage of changerooms and toilets, flooded pitches and boggy overflow car parking.
“Statements by the Berwick City Soccer Club are particularly concerning, given council is committed to a strategic focus on soccer and is planning for the future of soccer in Casey.
“Sports ground improvements at Jack Thomas Reserve have also been proposed in council’s five year capital works program, and through the budget process, I am hopeful that future Four Oaks councillors will work with the club to ensure the facilities meet their expectations.”
Cr Kaplon – who recently changed his position to support the club – returned fire. He labelled Cr Aziz’s comments an “election stunt”.
“I have been working closely with the club involved,” Cr Kaplon said.
“It takes six councillors to get things through the budget, not just two councillors.”
Cr Kaplon said Cr Aziz, during a recent budget process, failed to overturn Casey officers’ knockback of proposed works at Berwick City’s other home ground at Sweeney Reserve – which is in Cr Aziz’s ward.
“It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.”
Cr Aziz’s criticisms did not extend to Casey officers – one whom told Star News last week that the reserve met the “functional needs of the club’s members”.
Former mayor Shar Balmes, who has announced she is running for October’s council elections, however echoed Cr Aziz’s criticisms of the ward councillors.
Ms Balmes said she was shocked that works to rectify the problem had “disappeared” off the council’s 2014-’15 capital works program.
“I fought really hard (while I was a councillor) to get the pavilion extended and upgraded on the capital works program.
“Those needs have since mushroomed. The current local representation have obviously not pushed for the improvements.”
Berwick City president Joe Di Iorio meanwhile said he’d received no contact from Casey Council to fix the reserve’s problems since last week.