Council now between a rock and hardplace with their intentions on BBay Community Centre

In response to the mounting public outcry by the community around Council's intent to seek expressions of interest around the permanent leasing of the Community Centre in Batemans Bay the Council have said that they have received "unsolicited requests from organisations who wish to lease the property". Rather than simply tell these solicitous enquirers that the Community Centre is not for lease because it is a Community Centre, owned by the community and used for community purposes on land owned by the community with the building paid for by the community the Council staff decided to go ahead, off their own back, and ignore a clear motion from Council to do nothing in regards to the Community Centre until, at the very least, the Mackay Park project was open. Instead Council staff now advise that: "An Expression of Interest (EOI) process was instigated to allow an open process for all potentially interested parties to submit a proposal." Council have confirmed that the Batemans Bay Community Centre has around 15 community groups that hire a room at the BBCC on a weekly basis. In 2018 the centre had 1482 bookings that gave it an annual income of $71,935 with an expenditure (minus depreciation) of $56,435. Council have advised that the written down value for the Centre as reported by Council in its annual 2019-20 AAS27 report that the value of community centre complex including building, carpark, pathways is $1,169,996 while the written down depreciation for the Centre as reported by Council in its annual AAS27 report 2019-20 accumulated depreciation = $702,798 With figures like this the community are odds as to why the Council might consider the community owned building to be a liability to dispense with. It is now argued from within Councillor circles that the original promises given to the community of like for like space within the new Mackay Park Centre, providing comparable spaces for the community in exchange, have gone by the by and that the community are now being "screwed over". The groups who regularly use the Centre are Meals on Wheels, a Tai Chi provider, U3A, Shugyo Martial Arts, South Coast Stompers, Goshin Ryu Karate, a Speech Pathology provider, South Coast Colleges, AA Wednesday Group, The Legacies Group (AA), Mystery Bay School of Music, ESC Embracing Babies Program, Batemans Bay Line Dancers and a Dance class provider. Other community groups are expected to recommence their monthly booking sometime in the post-Covid future. These groups are Tollgates Probus, Dementia Australia, and CAE Book discussion group. There are other organisations that book on an adhoc basis. These include a counselling provider, EPA, Anglicare South Coast Illawarra, Anglicare Gambling Help, Integrated Living, Shoalhaven Rehab, Wellways, Family & Community Services, and Earth Angels. The Council advise that "All users have previously been contacted directly about interest shown in the community centre." This translate that all users have been contacted by the Council to find alternate venues because Council is intent on leasing out the Community Centre at market rates to improve their revenue stream and to be able to direct the rental to the running costs of the Mackay Park pool which is estimated to cost in the order of $1m per year once opened. Staff at Council’s Facility Booking Office have previously liaised with BBCC users to clarify their specific needs and find suitable alternative venues. Determined to ignore the mounting public protests and the 1000 signature petition the Council says that should the councillors decide to lease the community centre, "the large majority of users at BBCC will be relocated to Hanging Rock Function Centre, Mackay Park Function Centre, and the Batemans Bay Library meeting room. The Batemans Bay Child and Family Centre, Hanging Rock Basketball Stadium and Malua Bay Community Hall will also be utilised, although to a lesser extent." Council staff claim that with other venues available and under utilised, the leasing option of a community facility such as the Batemans Bay Community Centre "is part of Council’s responsibility to consider the efficient use of public assets." When asked "What would be the process to change the zoning from Operational back to Community to give the community confidence about the future of the site" the Council staff responded by saying "Any change in land use zone or classification would require an amendment to the LEP. For this to occur Council would need to resolve that a planning proposal be prepared setting out the changes desired by Council." The Council staff response added "The planning proposal would: 1. have to justify the changes proposed. 2. clearly articulate and justify the reason for reversing a change in classification. 3. Once the planning proposal was prepared it would need to be considered by Council and a resolution made that the planning proposal be referred to Department of Planning, Industry & Environment (DPIE) for consideration. 4. Subject to DPIE agreeing with Council to proceed, the planning proposal would need to be publicly exhibited. From the submissions received Council would need to resolve whether to proceed and then refer the matter back to DPIE for final consideration and approval. Basically that means all Councillors need to do is tell staff "Just do it. That is what you get paid to do". Council are now saying "It should be noted that Council is not considering a sale of the site. If it were to do so, in addition to the planning requirements there would be a need for a Council resolution to approve this and a separate Council resolution to subdivide BBBC from the remainder of the lot on which its sits. This would require a public notification period." This is an about face from their previous position: 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."

Council are now between a rock and a hard place as more is revealed around the intention to lease the community centre and move the community on.....