Clarifying SRA Public Meeting

Clarification on SRA Public Meeting

On Friday SFT published a notice issued by Kouga Municipality of a meeting to be held at Newton Hall. Jeffreys Bay at 7:00pm on Tuesday 28th November 2017. Some readers have interpreted this as referring to the SRA proposed by SFPO but it is not, rather the meeting is being organised by the Municipal Manager to discuss the SRA ins and outs with regard to the municipality as a whole. It is for this reason it is being held in Jeffreys Bay and not St Francis although the outcome of the meeting will no doubt have influence on how SFPO proceed with the “Saving St Francis” efforts.

St Francis Property Owners have stated they will be organising a series of public meetings to explain the way forward over the holiday season when many of the property owners will be in St Francis. These meetings will likely be based on the decisions made by the municipality.

The SRA was always going to divide the community for there are those truly concerned at how certain infrastructure is decaying whilst others, some would say, are quite happy to “fiddle whilst ‘St Francis’ burns”.

In a recent article on social media a rather gloating statement proclaims “SRA efforts by SFPO over past 2 years, including the “voting” process, were a waste of time”.  Whether successful or not surely the SRA proposal at least motivated people to start thinking about the future of St Francis. The final decision obviously will, and always has been at the door of the municipality. Again some will agree with whatever the final decision, others will not, such is the way of a democracy.

And before criticizing and ridiculing SFPO failure to get the SRA approved, the detractors should thank property owners (and non-property owners) who responded to a call to donate to the “Saving St Francis” NPC fund. Donations amounted to some R4.5million and much of what you see by way of improvement to Ann Ave and Aldabara parking / beach access has been made possible only because of these generous and concerned citizens. In addition to the mentioned improvement these donations have been well used in identifying requirements for; the river, beach & spit; our arterial roads and CCTV.

And on the subject of CCTV, the crime situation is fast becoming pandemic and something has to be done to arrest the situation. We are not going to be getting more police, local security companies are doing what they can so surely the only way forward is a CCTV network both in St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis. One thing we can be absolutely sure of, the municipality is not going to pay for it so who is? To fund a CCTV network it will require ongoing community funding to install, maintain and monitor such a network whether it be funded through an SRA or public donations.

 

Our beach?

A little Monday comtroversy – Agree or Disagree

e-Mail received from a reader

Let’s predict the future of our town. The conversation goes like this.

Dad – “Hey kids, great news! We are going to St Francis again this year for our Christmas holidays ! ”
Kids – “Aah Dad – but there’s no beach”

The reader feels only one question remains. “Is their a direct correlation between the value of St Francis Bay properties and the amount of sand on main beach as we head quickly towards having no beach at all ? No beach is now likely to happen within 6 to 9 months as we add revetments that aide not prevent sand loss. When the Vallies get here they will have a few choice words for us locals, I expect.”

On the other hand — should we rather let nature take its course by doing nothing as the sea encroaches on our shoreline?

What do you think? Add your comments below.

St Francis Bay at high tide

SRA Vote delayed

SRA Vote delayed until 2018

Reading the St Francis Property Owners newsletter that was circulated yesterday, it indicates that the targeted implementation date is now set for 1 July, 2018 should the SRA application be consented to by the majority of property owners and the Kouga Municipality. No doubt this will allow detractors some relief but it will also give us all an indication of just how much the municipality can deliver in terms of what improving the decaying infrastructure in St Francis.

With the commitment to improving the lot of the poor communities in the Kouga region it is doubtful we will see the needed finance for projects being allocated to St Francis and more likely any allocation will not even scratch the surface of what is needed. The reality is that the decay will not be arrested if money is not allocated and will become more critical, and more costly, a year on.

Reading an article published in the Sunday Time (included below) one must say the St Francis Property Owners decision on the vote criteria is extremely fair when reading how the ‘vote’ is decided in the Llandudno SRA. From the article it seems the value of one’s property dictates how many votes a home owner is allocated rather than the ‘one property one vote’ adopted by the St Francis Property Owners association. Had this ‘value’ format been set by SFPO there would undoubtedly have been even more resistance to the SRA concept than there has been. Thus far no one has come up with a better option so it still seems the only way forward, like it or not.

An interesting suggestion by a number of property owners is that SFPO start collecting money now. Obviously SFPO cannot enforce such a collection but the suggestion is that those property owners truly concerned with progress possibly start paying a levy equal to that proposed levy as a donation to kick start projects now rather than wait a year for what could be inevitable.

Read the full SFPO June newsletter here

SRA Llandudno

 

Road plans unveiled

Road plans unveiled by St Francis Property Owners

The St Francis Property Owners technical committee has certainly been hard at work at analysing much of what needs to be done to bring the St Francis road work up to scratch. No doubt financed by the money donated by those who responded to the call for donations to the “Save St Francis” Fund in December that raised close to R5 million, the report is certainly worth reading.

No doubt the Nay Sayers will have their say on social media but certainly this is a step forward in advising residents some of what the SRA is about and all that needs to be done to save the road network. With Exec Mayor having made it quite clear that the municipal budget next financial year for road upgrades in the entire Kouga district is for just one kilometre of road upgrades and in years to come, one kilometre per ward (17 wards) per year. It would appear there there is scant hope of our roads ever being upgraded without St Francis residents taking some action themselves..

Although our raods are presently in quite good condition with the DA having been true to their word, the rains are a coming and we all know once the rain starts so the potholes start opening up. Will will the municipality have the funds and manpower to keep up with the good job they  have been doing? More seriously though, every pothole further degrades the sub-structure and stability of the roads and patching does little to preserve the road foundations.

Read the various reports here.

Road Plans

Road Final Drawings

Road Visuals

or visit http://npc.stfrancispropertyowners.co.za/npc-projects/road-maintenance/

 

 

Let’s work together!

Let’s work together and forget the pettiness.

With the announcement in parliament that only nine percent of the 2017 / 18 budget will be spent on municipalities, possibly those opposed to the St Francis Property Owners SRA proposal should reconsider their NO votes and actively engage themselves in finding a way forward. Only those who choose to ignore the Minister’s assertions in his budget speech and Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen’s confirmations that priority will be the upliftment of the poorer areas of Kouga can be in any doubt that there is not going to a magic wand that will see the Kouga municipality finding the funding to address our deteriorating infrastructure.

St Francis Today was yesterday given a copy of a flier that is being distributed in St Francis soliciting property owners to reverse their YES vote. Considering the government’s decision is it not time that the anti SRA body reconsider and rather start working with the SFPO to find a solution to what realities are facing our little (affluent) hamlet. One would have to be without social conscience to ignore the plight of the poor for there is a growing restlessness throughout South Africa with the general feeling amongst the poor that nothing has changed since the demise of apartheid 22 years ago.

Certainly there may be flaws in the SRA proposal that need to be addressed but discounting it as unworkable is rather like burying one’s head in the sand. Leaving it to the politicians to solve is not going to work and if we are going to ignore the experience of well qualified business people and their well researched suggested solutions, who are we going to turn to. If nothing is done and the input of the present SFPO committee is totally ignored, their value may be lost to us forever. Like David Cameron resigning when he lost the Brexit vote, will this committee too decide to throw in the towel? And who of those so against the SRA are going to step into the void and fight for St Francis should these proven business leaders decide to step down.

This is not a pro SRA post but rather an appeal to forget the petty arguments and come together as a community and find solutions not only for St Francis but also for our close neighbours in Sea Vista.

The SRA is not about the canals, the spit and beachfront properties. It is about St Francis and our future. Maybe it is time to again read the SFPO “Vision 2030” document.

More Questions and Answers on SRA

16 March – SRA Questions, Answers, Comments and Responses

Question: Can the legitimacy of the voting process will be challenged and if challenged and how will those who are not members of the Residents Association be informed?

Answer: People incorrectly see the voting as an election process. Nobody is being elected. The Kouga Municipality simply requires, as per the SRA legislation, proof of consent of the majority of property owners, 50%+1, that they approve of the SRA levy, and as such allow the Municipality to add it to their monthly Municipal bill. The consent forms are required in hardcopy format and can be inspected by anyone who chooses to do so. It cannot be a secret ballot. We have used the term vote on the consent form to avoid confusion as to a yes or no to the consent requested by us.

Question: Before I can vote on supporting the special levy I would like to know how the amount was decided?

Answer: The levy was calculated based on detailed cost estimates we have collected over the past year for each piece of our infrastructure that  we need to restore. The road costs came from the work a group of  consulting engineers we hired – EAS PE. These costs are based on a survey completed by them. The sewerage costs were given to us by  Aurecon, who have the complete set of drawings for the roll out of water borne sewerage to the remaining 75% of properties who are on conservancy tanks and soak aways. The River, Spit and Beach costs have  been based on the work done by Worley Parson in 2014, and subsequent  work by the Riparians, and our own team. The security camera estimates were extracted from information provided by two separate Security  camera equipment companies that service a lot of private estates and cities around South Africa.

Question: What if the municipal rates spiral?

Answer: The Municipality cannot increase its rates over and above inflation without a specific application to National Treasury (this is specifically to protect property owners from being exploited). The Municipality relies on an annual inflation adjustment and the re-valuing of properties every 5 years

Question: Will there be written agreement between the SRA and Local Authority as to who does what, in the absence of such, efforts will naturally default to the SRA doing everything (the slippery slope).

A: This is spelt out in the SRA Business Plan. In our draft Business Plan it is very clear that we are not a surrogate municipality.

Question: The issue of ownership of infrastructure; If the SFPO is building and maintaining infrastructure should it not be the owner of, or at least have lien over same?

A: If we wanted to turn the whole of St Francis into a private estate then we should take ownership of the land and infrastructure, including Sea Vista. This also means all infrastructure including electricity, water, refuse removal, etc. We do not have a mandate from the property owners to do this as this would require a lot more money than we can raise through this levy. We want the Municipality to get back on its feet and serve us going forward, but it simply does not have the resources to do so in an acceptable timeframe, which is why we are proposing the SRA levy.

Question: Has anyone tried to analyize why properties in St Francis Bay have dropped more than 30% in the past 8 years. Second to Plett it is one of our premier coastal holiday destinations. We can’t blame potholes in the roads or the beach erosion for this.

Answer: This has been caused by the declining state of our infrastructure, both environmental and roads etc. Many people have considered selling up and getting out of St Francis because of the state of our infrastructure, and the absolute resistance to change by some of our retired community. The possibility of the SRA solution has held back a lot of these disenchanted property investors, but it leaves us with a depressed market

Question: How much revenue is collected each year from the current rates, and how are these funds allocated? Sewerage, water and electricity are charged separately and homeowners are charged for these services whether their homes are occupied or not, or whether plots are developed or not. I expect the new DA mayor to provide the reasons why there is no money available for repair of infrastructure.
I am all in favour of repairing and improving the beach facilities and would be willing to make a monthly contribution but feel 50% of current rates to be unaffordable.

Answer: The Municipality were asked to give a full set of figures for St Francis and private estates in early December but they said they could not do so until January. We couldn’t request this information until the DA Councillors had agreed to support our SRA proposal, and were only given this decision late November. Our research has told us that St Francis Bay’s 2,150 properties (which excludes the private estates, Cape St Francis, and Sea Vista township) contribute about R37m a year in rates. The private estates probably add another R15m, bearing in mind that some the River Estates pay Agricultural rates (25% of the residential rates). So we think about R50m pa is paid by St Francis excluding Cape St Francis and Sea Vista.

We are not privy as to how these rates are allocated by the Municipality but would think they first of all are used to pay salaries and overheads (buildings, equipment, etc.). What we were told by Ben Rheeder and Elza van Lingen at the AGM was that they are obligated to spend 60% of all available funds to underprivileged areas. The Municipality has budgeted to collect R680m from all of its services in the 2016/2017 year. The capital budget is R60m, which is hopelessly inadequate for what is required to be done. Our Waste Treatment plant alone requires R10m to upgrade it because it is running at full capacity or more.

Water and electricity is charged based on consumption. You can look at your own account to see whether an availability fee is also charged. Sewerage is a levy of somewhere around R189 per month, which is consistent with a water borne sewerage service. We are not charged for the honey sucker to empty our conservancy tank in St Francis Bay. Cape St Francis (CSF) on the other hand has no water borne sewerage at all and have to pay between R650 and R960 per honey sucker service. If you require two services a month (as I do for my conservancy tank), then you will pay R1,300 – R1,920 per month. The average property value in St Francis is R3m with monthly rates of R1,650 and The sewerage service in CSF will cost you between 80 – 110% of you monthly rates!  Our honey sucker services appear to be heavily subsidised in St Francis Bay.

You have every right to ask the DA whatever you choose. Unlike the ANC previously you will get an answer.  From my point of view the DA are working very hard to turn around a severely damaged Municipality. The Municipality has a lawsuit currently in progress for R750m for their part in failing to deal with the fires a few years ago. Their vehicle fleet of some 220 vehicles had less than 10% left on the road when the DA took over in August. PE Metro are claiming an underpayment of R43m on the water account as PE supplies Kouga Municipality with its water. There are a number of corruption charges they are dealing with to clean up the Municipality. They have to reinvigorate their staff….among many other challenges.

 We are proposing 50% to fix the infrastructure backbone of our town. We have had professional engineers estimate the R373m to do this. 36% of this total value is fixing the results of man-made interventions in our environment. Santareme was built on the sand dunes that fed sand onto our beach, and has caused the loss of our beach. The diverting of the Sand river from where it entered the sea near Aldabara to the Kromme river, has resulting in depositing all its sand in the river rather than on the beach where it fed the Spit.

As regards the cost of restoring our infrastructure, we can extend the period beyond 10 years and pay less, but the cost of fixing all of this is just going to climb the longer we leave it. The 50% levy will adjust our rates to 0.92, still below PE’s rates of 0.97, but we control through the SFPO NPC (Not For Profit Company) all of this additional levy (with the exception of a small administrative fee deducted by the Municipality). We know that we are stuck between a rock and hard place, but for the 10 years
that I have been living full-time in St Francis I have not seen or heard of any solutions to our problems. The last serious proposal (beach, spit and river only) was in 2006, and that was rejected. Look where that got us.

Where this levy is unaffordable we are in the process of setting up a system whereby people can apply for partial or full relief.