Five million dollar fait accompli?

Five million dollar fait accompli?

January 2018 | Sharon Webb

Meander Valley Council will hold a public meeting about the proposed $5m Westbury Function Centre on 15th February.

The meeting venue will be the Westbury Town Hall in Lyall St, Westbury and will start at 7.00pm.

“The meeting is open to anyone from within the municipality; I encourage signatories of the petition and regular and potential users of the recreation ground to attend and share their thoughts in a constructive manner,” says Mayor Craig Perkins.

Mayor Perkins said that at the meeting council would explain:
• The decision-making process;
• How council intends to fund construction and ongoing costs;
• What the proposed buildings will contain;
• Potential management arrangements;
• The process from now until potential construction.

The public meeting was called by a petition signed by almost 500 people, technically not enough to fulfill the Local Government Act requirement of 1000 signatures or five per cent of residents. But the December council meeting agreed to the meeting saying it was important to listen to the community and to “clear up misconceptions” about the project.

The Westbury Recreation Ground project has grown from a $12,000 changeroom upgrade in 2012 to a $5m fully-fledged function centre in 2017, funded from council reserves and with projected operating costs of $145,000 a year.

Council is divided into factions for and against the proposal, which got up in the October meeting with a five – three vote.

Councillors Deb White, Tanya King and Mayor Craig Perkins are against it, citing cost as the major factor.

Councillors Rodney Synfield, Ian Mackenzie, Bob Richardson, John Temple and Andrew Connor support the project. They want the facility to cater for all Westbury sports teams and groups, rather than simply upgrading football and cricket changerooms.

Westbury ratepayer Sean Manners said that while residents agree recreation ground changerooms need upgrading, the current proposal is too big.

“Practicality has gone out the window in pursuit of some dream,” he said.

“I’m unsure of the motives of the supporting councillors but some of them mention similar facilities in Smithton, St Helens and Scottsdale – all of which are some 60-75km from the nearest sporting facilities.

“Westbury is only 17km from facilities in Deloraine and 30km from Prospect. We don’t need anything this big.

“Council’s general manager Martin Gill told me that the $5m cost of the facility is about 25 per cent of council cash reserves – or 75 per cent if you take into account funds already allocated.

“This facility could end up as a white elephant – and the running cost of $145,000 a year is an awful lot to get back (from the community).”

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