This Thursday will see Councillors once again listening to one presenter after another beseeching them NOT to lease out the Batemans Bay Community Centre to a third party and to respect that the facility is community owned, community funded and that the purpose built Batemans Bay Community Centre plays a vital role for the community. Council's justifications to date for the move to lease, then sell, the building is because they need the money for the massive $19 million blowout that the community will need to cover to build the Mackay Park Centre.
Alan Russell, Manager, Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels, will be one of the presenters during Public Forum. Mr Russel told The Beagle "The Council recently advertised for Expressions of Interest to administer the Batemans Bay Community Centre. This was after the disaster with the Headspace proposal.
"The Council sought Expressions of Interest at commercial rates which eliminated most Not-for-Profit groups from putting in an application. Many such groups considered making an application and I know of two who had stated this in letters to Council.
"However, the Council viewed two applications and decided upon one.
"It now appears that the Council will establish noncommercial rates for this Not-for-Profit group. Why did the Council not allow other Not-for-Profit groups the same opportunity?
"If Council was happy to receive less, then all should have been able to apply with these new rules?" Mr Russell asked.
"The whole debate over the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre has been one issue after another. Any good company would not have let their staff cause such a mess of an important business asset.
"Why has the Council not acted with real Governance and control rather than letting everything be decided by the staff and then ‘rubber stamp’ the option.
"Publicly only three Councillors appear to have been asking questions while the others have appeared to just accept the recommendations. This could be seen in the return of the Leasing recommendation after Council briefings without amendment.
"When the Mayor adjourned the Council discussion for the matter to be viewed again, she stated that she had missed a Council Briefing and personally had questions to ask. Obviously, they were satisfactorily answered and did not require changes to the report."
"The Council has now allocated the lease which will start from 1 July 2021. Not many weeks later the Council goes into Caretaker mode and the Local Government elections take place.
"Why did the Council not leave the matter for the next Council?"
"Councillors have said that in the life of this Council the Batemans Bay Community Centre will not be sold. Can we believe this?
"I believe that they have placed the next Council in such a bind that the only thing they can do is sell the Centre in the future.
The Eurobodalla Meals on Wheels manager added "While Councillors claim there are no plans for the commercial development of that end of town, can we really believe that there is no plan hiding in a draw as part of the planned infrastructure of the town.
"What can we really believe as Council says one thing and does another?
"Why not give the community a Christmas present?
"Shelve this lease and wait for the new Council to evaluate the impact of MacKay Park as was the original idea and fill the present under utilised facilities by highlighting their advantages. We do have a big marketing team to assist with this.
"Or if the Council is determined to rid themselves of the Centre, reopen the discussions with Not-for-Profit groups so to let the community run the Batemans Bay Community Centre for community activity not as an office block with a few spaces which may be available.
"The Council claims they are listening and talking to the community. I feel that they are not listening, and they certainly have not been talking to, or with me, so with whom?
"Once again, Council says one thing and does another," Mr Russell concluded.
Above: an extract of the letter from GM Dale to Dr Sue Mackenzie. While the Council says the BBCC will need to remain open to the community are these words simply pedantics, carefully chosen, knowing the Council's intent of leasing the building in 2020 to a "community group" who will then manage bookings to local community groups such as U3A "where possible".