BERWICK City Soccer Club has lashed out at Casey Mayor Sam Aziz’s “non-committal” statement responding to a litany of problems at its home ground.
President Joe Di Iorio, meanwhile, said he’d received no contact from Casey council to fix the reserve’s 30-year-old sub-standard facilities since he went public about the problems in late August.
Mr Di Iorio described Cr Aziz’s response on 30 August – in which the mayor blamed ward councillors Rafal Kaplon and Rosalie Crestani – as “non-committal”.
“Our members and families are interested in solutions, not excuses for the poor facilities or who’s to blame for not upgrading them,” Mr Di Iorio said.
“The City of Casey has the overarching responsibility to its residents irrespective of whether councillors need to lobby during the budget process for infrastructure funds in their own ward.
“Council to date has failed to acknowledge the sub-standard conditions at Jack Thomas Reserve for its largest soccer club.”
In the statement, 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 change rooms and toilets, flooded pitches and boggy overflow car parking.
This winter matches have at times been confined to one useable pitch for 25 teams.
“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,” Cr Aziz said.
“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 a reserve upgrade – labelled Cr Aziz’s comments as 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.
“I do agree, though, with Cr Aziz that the demand on council for sports infrastructure is significantly strong and the delivery by councillors and officers has been substantial.”
The Four Oaks Ward councillor Cr Crestani said she and Cr Kaplon “always sought to meet the needs of our sporting clubs”.
“The demands of sharing the budget across many clubs and sports Casey-wide and with high accountability to our rate payers, it is inevitable that we can deliver some projects and delay others.
“I have spoken to both the Mayor and Cr Kaplon since this media release and I am encouraged that we all share a desire to see the needs of the city met and it is to this end that we move forward.”
Cr Aziz’s criticisms did not extend to Casey officers – one of who 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.”
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