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Council responds to community backlash over the leasing of the BBay Community Centre

This week has seen a groundswell of community backlash against Eurobodalla Council over the revelation that they are seeking expressions of interest from organisations interested in leasing the Batemans Bay Community Centre for community purposes. Letters to the Editor have appeared in local media and representatives have spoken of the issue on radio voicing their concerns and advising the community that Council has requested they find alternate accommodation for their activities. One critical activity that is run from the Batemans Bay Community Centre is Eurobodalla Meals On Wheels. A Council media release has stated today "The community centre is not for sale." A spokesperson for one of the groups affected said "While Council advise 'Only leases for community purposes will be considered' they also say 'EOIs must include a detailed synopsis of expected community benefits and how the proposed use generates local economic activity" "We made enquiries and found that the rental would be set at market rates, well beyond the affordability of our membership". In response to the building backlash against Council and councillors for having gone against their word of May 2019 to do nothing with the centre until the Mackay Park Centre opened (expected in 2022) the Council has today released this statement: "The community centre is not for sale. The expression of interest is about potential to lease the centre for community purposes that generate local economic activity, and market rental is proposed. Council has had unsolicited approaches from a number of groups interested in leasing the centre. The EOI process provides these groups with the chance to put forward their proposal to Council in a fair manner and ensures all community groups have the same opportunity.  

The Council "When national youth mental health foundation Headspace approached Council earlier this year about leasing the centre, a process of approaching all user groups to discuss alternative community venues got underway. The Council release issued today assures community groups, moved on from the Batemans Bay Community Centre, "that fees for use of those community venues would be in accordance with Council’s adopted 2020-21 fees and charges, which are not commercial rates and cater to community users." The media release continues that "Following the conclusion of the EOI period on 8 October, any submissions that meet the criteria will be presented to a Council meeting, where a decision will be made about whether to proceed with leasing the centre. Council welcomes community feedback about the proposal."

In May 2019 the Eurobodalla General Manager, Catherine Dale (above) 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."

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