Frank Zaknich drums up 12 months

THE first anniversary of Frank Zaknich becoming Albury Council general manager has slipped by with little fanfare.

The man, whose passions outside one of the most pressurised and scrutinised positions in the city include music, cannot be accused of courting the spotlight.

In the best traditions of one of his favourite pastimes — playing the drums — he has been content to let others play the lead role.

Mr Zaknich followed the same path to Albury as his predecessor Les Tomich, from mining city Broken Hill.

Twelve months on he said his game-plan had not altered.

“I didn’t start with the organisation in order to revolutionise,” he said.

“The process we are going through is an evolutionary one.

“The future is around future-proofing and being certain about what services and businesses we are in.

“It is a vibrant regional city.

“It has a lot going for it and the dynamics point to a long sustainable place.”

Those dynamics are in part the role Albury plays in providing health, shopping, cultural and sporting services and facilities far beyond the city’s boundaries and current population base of 52,000 people.

“Albury has a regional leadership role,” he said.

“We can’t do without each other and we are reliant on each other to play our part.

“The farming sector is vital just as much as the central business district.

“You walk down Dean Street or Griffith Road and they are very active with lots of people.

“The place is humming.”

Mr Zaknich began at Albury last year when the budget for the current financial year was essentially locked and loaded.

The special rate variation ratepayers accepted three years ago is ending and rate rises will return to more traditional levels next financial year.

The state-imposed rate peg has been set at 2.3 per cent.

Mr Zaknich’s service and performance review incorporated into the budget last year is ongoing and on target to achieve savings across the board of an estimated $3.5 million before the council goes to the polls again.

The biggest project to be delivered in Mr Zaknich’s initial four-year contract will be the $10.5 million art gallery redevelopment.

The revamp was driven hard by Mr Tomich and his successor shares the enthusiasm about its potential of matching the success enjoyed by its Bendigo counterpart.

“Ours is quite unique because of its location,” Mr Zaknich said.

“It will be a nationally significant gallery and attract national and international exhibitions.

“The business model is being developed so we are getting income through cafe and retail shop to support the gallery operations.

“From an exhibition and architectural design point of view it will be an attraction in its own right.”

Albury recently played host to a delegation from Maroondah Council in Melbourne, which is looking at developing something of similar proportions.

But the little projects are also important in Mr Zaknich’s eyes and he confirmed the long-overdue upgrade of Kiewa Street between Dean and Smollett streets will start shortly.

In the next 12 months the recommendations of the local government review will be handed down.

Albury is steadfast in its opposition to mergers, but the city is happy to explore alternatives which will appease those driving change.

“We are ready to play a role as a regional leader,” Mr Zaknich said.

“We’ve been working closely with our adjoining councils looking at opportunities for shared services.

“For us amalgamation is way down the list.

“Our focus is to do what we do together a lot better.

“At the frontline they could be building inspections and planning matters, asset management and IT at a more strategic level.”

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