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Council dare to lease and then sell Batemans Bay Community Centre: enough is enough

The community are invited to a PROTEST this coming Friday October 2nd : 10:30am at the Batemans Bay Community Centre where speakers will advise that Eurobodalla Council has advised the many community groups and users of the facility to look for other venues as they intend to lease the building (with the potential of selling) at commercial rates to a community agency.

Only recently the community discovered that the council had undertaken discussions with Headspace to lease the building however, on discovery of the fact and following widespread outcry HeadSpace graciously withdrew their interest in respect of community concerns. Through a process of moves the Council has maneuvered the Community Centre to the status of Operational that entitles them to basically do as they please without Councillor or community consultation. Initially selling the original community built hall and donated land on Orient Street the Council were brought to task and reminded that the property was only under their trusteeship. They were then forced to recompense the community by building a new centre on the current location in Museum Place however they craftily classified the property as Operational that allowed them an ease to lease or sell. In May 2019 the Eurobodalla General Manager, Catherine Dale stated that Council had not made a decision to sell the existing BBCC saying "It has been identified that it could possibly be sold or leased, to offset construction and/or ongoing operational costs associated with the proposed Batemans Bay Aquatics, Arts and Leisure Centre BBAALC. The General Manager has also advised in writing that she "cannot give you any long term assurance on the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre (BBCC), other than that which I have previously provided – namely that Council has not made any long term decisions," adding "The BBCC will need to remain open to the community until the new Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (AALC) is constructed and operational. Maintaining the existing facility would duplicate functions and add operational costs while removing potential sale or lease options, including the revenue arising from such. This would have the effect of inadvertently increasing the operational cost of the AALC and deprive that centre of a potential source of income, therefore compromising its affordability, including the theatre." In learning of Council's intent to now lease the Community Centre Eurobodalla long Council's assurances of May 2019 that "the BBCC will need to remain open to the community until the new Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (AALC) is constructed and operational" the Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels Manager, Mr Alan Russell told the Beagle:

"The Eurobodalla Shire Council is planning to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre. "Expressions of Interest opened on Friday 18 September and will close on Thursday 8 October. “This process may seem to most of the community as nothing to worry about. It may appear that Council are being sensible managers of their asset until you consider the ramifications,” said the Manager of Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels, Alan Russell. “In fact, most of the community would not have even heard of this decision and will wonder why people are upset,” said Mr Russell. “The decision will be slipped through Council on the quiet, and most of the community will not know.” Mr Russell said "As a result of this decision the Batemans Bay Community Centre will change in operation. The functions presently undertaken will not be able to happen as easily. "This change will see an important part of the Councils infrastructure move to ‘commercial rates’ as the new lease requires the operator to pay commercial rent for the facility." "What will this do to the rates presently charged to Not for Profit organisations who are well supported by the Council?" asks Mr Russell, concerned that the customised purpose built Meals on Wheels kitchen that is accommodated in the centre to service the needs of the wider Batemans Bay region will see a spike in rental beyond their affordability.

Above: On the 26th of August, National Meals on Wheels Day recognised the dedicated volunteer workforce who stepped up to help protect the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did the volunteers of Meals on Wheels Batemans Bay know of Council's backroom intent to close their facility down as the Mayor, Liz Innes, presented vouchers of appreciation from BP Australia.

Mr Russel of Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels said "The new operator will have to lift rates to cover their cost and to be financially viable. This will affect the viability of community organsiations who run on tight margins, to provide for the community. "In the petition presented to Council 18 months ago, with over 1000 signatures, the community wanted the Centre to stay as it is. "Over 100 users of the Centre need the Centre to stay as it is. "So, we can see why the Council is working so quietly to dispose of the Centre. They do not want the community to know about the proposal. “The Council will tell you that they have the MacKay Park project started and this new facility will be able to provide the community with all the spaces they require,” said Mr Russell. “But the costs will not be the same and Not for Profit groups will not be able to afford what is proposed.” Mr Russell believes that the new Mackay Park facility will be great for the community with productions coming to town and new aquatic facilities.However, Mr Russell asks what happens if the proposal to have regular shows performing is realised, and the production teams require access to the new rooms? “I guess that when the productions require the additional space for their crew and performers, the small groups will have to leave. They will have to find somewhere else to meet. Therefore, our small groups will not commit to using the space as Council hopes. They will need the Community Centre to be open and available. But the rates which will be charge will be too high so groups will just fold! “Not good enough,” says Mr Russell. “I believe that the Batemans Bay Community Centre’s used by date therefore is not over. The Centre should stay, and Council should manage it,” says Mr Russell. "But will Council listen to the views of those who would have elected them this month. Or with the election delayed by a year will they go ahead with the proposal and hope we forget next year? Maybe the community should voice its objection to this on Friday at 10.30 at the Batemans Bay Community Centre."

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