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Councils spokesperson knows more than the councillors about most things

The Editor

In 2016 when Council announced it had purchased the Old Bowling Club Site with much fanfare by the Mayor and other Councillors the shires community were told it was acquired for the benefit of the shires residents and ratepayers. It was even implied a development on the site would occur to compliment the proposed new swimming pool aquatic centre complex, leaving an expectation in the community something would occur fairly quickly. Read for yourself the Media Release from ex-mayor Lindsay Brown from April 29th, 2016

The New Batemans Bay Bridge idea and the RMS taking control of the site was not mentioned during the fanfare of the new ownership announcement. From discussions and public announcements from Council about the site that have occurred to date it would appear council has no idea why it was actually purchased or what will occur any time soon as far as community expectations with the site go. The purchase appears to have been speculative only, leaving the areas ratepayers and residents to pay for election promises that won’t be delivered it seems. In a comment within these pages and on social media by group Our Town Say ask some very pointed questions that need to be acknowledged by Councillors and investigated. ESC purchased the 'Bowlo' in 2016 for $2.73m plus stamp duty - total purchase price, approximately $3m. They borrowed $2m for this 'strategic' purchase seemingly falling short of the lending eligibility criteria, from TCorp. Current interest rate 4%. So over a 2 year period, a total of approximately $160,000 in interest is payable on the loan. Council claims that the building is full of mould with electrical wiring hanging down and is virtually uninhabitable. So what's the site worth now? It owes us about $3.160m (and rising on a daily basis) so far. Council denied any community group the opportunity to occupy the site despite putting out 'expressions of interest' for its use. That is inexcusable. According to the Valuer General in 2016, the land value was $1.550m - so what do you think the site is worth now? Well, probably as much as a buyer is willing to pay. It is rumoured council was offered 'what they paid for it' but this offer was turned down. Still the question remains: Why did Council buy the bowlo rather suddenly in 2016?

We now learn that a spokesperson for the council has issued a statement saying Council would be calling for expressions of interest to develop the site after the bridge was completed. The spokesperson said:

“After taking on board community input, the council identified a number of preferred development outcomes for the site, including a conference and events space, tourist accommodation, residential accommodation, restaurants and cafes” “We plan to go to the private sector and broader community this year to identify potential interested parties to deliver these or other compatible uses.

“This process will ensure the best possible outcome is achieved for the community.”

The council said using the former bowling club as a site office was “no impediment to this”

“The timing works well and will generate an income from the site. It is also in the council’s interests to support the NSW Government while they construct this essential infrastructure for our region.

“While the site is being used by RMS to support construction of the bridge, the council can undertake the necessary process to identify the successful party, who will then have time to finalise detailed design, obtain necessary development consent, construction approvals, appoint builders and be ready to start the project when it is vacated by RMS.” “After taking on board community input, the council identified a number of preferred development outcomes for the site, including a conference and events space, tourist accommodation, residential accommodation, restaurants and cafes” It is important to remember that in the PerfEx report of Mackay Park Sunset Meeting Wednesday 13th December held at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club Mark Hitchenson of Council listed the reasons why Council is no longer seeking a Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the development of the northern site (Bowling Club), although still lists possible future inclusions in development by the private sector as residential, hotel, conference and events centre. Maybe Council needs to be honest that their idea of a PPP idea failed because developers want free reign to own their own and and build exactly what they want. The idea of Council selling the Information Centre and Community Centre and injecting that money into a development has not been agreed to by the community and that is another hurdle that faces Council. So why did Council, who have no expertise at all in development, buy the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site for possibly $1.2m more than it was worth and why are councillors being kept in the dark? Name and address supplied