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Council told in no uncertain terms: Getcha hands of it

More than 150 attended a public meeting held this morning (Oct 2nd 2020) at the Batemans Bay Community Centre to learn more of Council's intent to to vacate the premises and community groups from the Centre in order to lease (and then sell) the building at market rates to meet Mackay Park shortfalls.

The Centre, paid for and owned by the community, has been earmarked by Council for sale/lease once the Mackay Park Aquatic Centre is completed to help pay for the estimated $3m per year running costs and most likely contribute to the estimated $18m GAP between the grants given and the final construction cost. The decision that Council staff have made to ignore the wishes of a 1000 signature petition to leave the community centre as it is in community hands, for the community, has come as a shock to many. Today's turnout of 150 or more to listen to representatives of the primary groups speak was "just the tip of the iceberg" of the number of members of the community who use the facility. Council has been adamant on the issue saying "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 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 indications 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 meeting today saw Councillors McGinlay and Mayne attend to hear the concerns of the community. Both Councillors Constable and Pollock offered their apologies to the invitation that was sent to all the councillors and Mayor. The absence of Batemans Bay councillors Tait, Nathan and Innes was noted with much disgust being voiced that "they hadn't bothered to show up to listen to the community in their own town while southern councillors made the effort". Several user groups were represented this morning including U3A, Meals on Wheels, Perfex, Line Dancing, Yoga, Rotary.  Labor Party representatives were also in attendance.

Speakers included representatives of Meals on Wheels, U3A and Perfex. The Perfex presentation, as read by Hank Roubos, follows. Clr Anthony Mayne said to the meeting ‘this is our community centre .... your community centre.’  staying back and speak directly with community members voicing their concerns. Clr McGinlay also attended to hear the speakers and listen to the many community members who voiced their dismay at the lack of consultation. Councilor McGinlay reiterated his stated position that he posted to social media earlier in the week saying "At present, I cannot possibly express a view as to how I would vote on this issue, as councillors are obliged to refrain from expressing a pre-conceived view about a (in this case hypothetical Motion) until all arguments (pro or con) are received and considered from whatever sources, immediately before a vote on any issue. I can say however, given my current understanding of the situation and my openness to further information, my current perspective is that this proposal to lease the centre is risible (meaning: provoking laughter through being ludicrous)."

The Perfex presentation, as read by Hank Roubos Should we keep the Bay Community Centre?

Should we keep it functioning for the Community as a community resource- affordable,

accessible, well-maintained and usable?

A petition with over 1000 signatures (some 10% of the resident population of the Bay)

thought so and called for the ongoing retention of the Centre as a Community facility under

direct Council control.

This is still our position. Council thinks otherwise and has classified it as ‘operational’,

allowing them to do what they like with it, including selling it.

Is that what the community wants?

The council says it has to go to help pay for costs related to the Mackay Park project. The

Mackay Park Entertainment/Aquatic Centre could be a great bonus for the community and

the overall project will give some short-term benefits in some extra jobs and the impression

of a ‘vision’ for the community.

However, on the other side of the ledger, there have been and will be many losses. One has

been the iconic and family orientated MiniGolf, not to be relocated, and so lost to the

people. Another has been the loss of the Bowlo, originally bought ‘for the community’ and

very quickly re-allocated to ‘operational’ to allow sale and private development. So, too, the

racecourse.

Be aware, Council is selling off our community assets to pay for the shortfall on Mackay Park project: land, facilities, features of our town and Shire.

Yet subsidising the cost of operating a Community Centre is a basic and fundamentally

important service for which the Council is responsible.

We need this place: for the nuts and bolts of community life, for the 100 or so groups who

use this facility. The Council says we can go elsewhere.

But what if we are proved right and in five years’ time a new Community Centre is needed

to cater for the wide needs of the local community?

Where will it be sited? Who will pay for it? What a waste of resources, especially when we

will be already paying for the 15-20million ‘overdraft’ beyond the grants that initiated this

whole series of events.

We must continue to lobby to keep our Community Centre, and to keep this as part of next

year’s election issues.

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