Sale of Pioneer Community Centre
2279/2008 - Funding of Halls
General Manager's Report
Council has resolved that further consultation be undertaken with the Committees of Management of the Argents Hill, Burrapine, Pioneer Community Centre, Valla Beach Community Centre, Tewinga and Warrell Creek halls to ascertain the need for Place of Public Entertainment (POPE) approvals for the individual buildings and look at options for funding and completing works to enable POPE approvals to be issued for these halls. Of the six halls listed, two do not require POPE approvals and two are likely to achieve POPE approvals in the near future. The future of Argents Hill hall is likely to be dependant upon achieving Work for the Dole or other Commonwealth funding. In relation to the Pioneer Community Centre in Bowraville it is recommended that Council secure premises for its major tenants being Radio Nambucca and Aunt Emily’s craft co-operative and sell the building.
1 That Council seek a valuation of the Pioneer Community Centre and negotiate with the Committees of Management for the Pioneer Community Centre and Tewinga Community Centre as well as Radio Nambucca with a view to relocating Radio Nambucca to the Tewinga Community Centre and selling the Pioneer Community Centre with a long term lease in place for Aunt Emily’s.
2 That a further report be submitted to Council on the outcome of the valuation and negotiations.
There have been many reports to Council on the maintenance of its community halls and buildings. All have made it plain that the status quo is not sustainable in terms of responsible asset management. In some instances the dedicated volunteer groups who comprise the Committees of Management may not be sustainable as increasing age and a dwindling supply of new recruits will make it difficult to spread the work load.
There are obviously many options available to Council as it seeks to balance costs and benefits with available finance, competing asset management responsibilities and community aspirations.
Council’s meeting on 21 June 2007 considered a lengthy report on community halls and buildings and resolved in part:
1 That Council defer closures of any halls for twelve (12) months to allow the Committees of Management to consider their long term financial sustainability.
5 That Council offer guidance and support to Committee’s regarding grant applications and determine accurate costing to complete the capital works needs for each facility.
Subsequently, on 18 October 2007, Council considered a status report on the condition of the halls, what facilities each hall has and to seek guidance in relation to what facilities Council wishes to have in place at each hall when considering applications for POPE (place of public entertainment) approvals. That meeting resolved in part:
6 That further consultation be undertaken with the Committees of Management of the Argents Hill, Burrapine, Pioneer Community Centre, Valla Beach Community Centre, Tewinga and Warrell Creek halls to ascertain the need for POPE approvals for the individual buildings and look at options for funding and completing works to enable POPE approvals to be issued for these halls.
7 That consideration of funding upgrade works for the halls referred to in recommendation 6 be considered in a further report following the need for POPE approvals and funding options being discussed with the committees of management.
8 That discussions be held with Work for the Dole providers to look at completing components of the works programs at the halls.
The report concerning the resolutions of 18 October 2007 has been scheduled to be reported to the Works Inspection Committee on 20 February 2008. However given the resolution of 21 June 2007 it is also timely to review the progress of the committees of management for the hall committees generally.
In the latter part of 2007, the General Manager attended the Annual General Meetings for all of these Hall Committees. At each of the meetings there was discussion concerning the current and likely future uses of the buildings, any necessary upgrading works and funding options, including the use of programs such as Work for the Dole and Regional Partnerships.
There has also been on-going consultation with many of the Hall committees in relation to their upgrade works, fundraising events and insurance issues.
In particular the structure of Councils’ insurances is an on-going issue in attracting fundraising events. In summary, Council’s “Casual Hirers Liability” policy excludes any commercial or profit making activity and also excludes any sporting body, club, association, corporation or incorporated body. This means that any “low key” commercial activity such as music lessons, art shows, or teaching is excluded unless the user pays for their own public liability insurance at a cost of $600 to $700. This is obviously not viable for a “one off” art show or for most occasional commercial uses. Representations have been made to Council’s insurance brokers in relation to this policy, so far without success.
In general, the attendance at the AGM’s for the Hall Committees was very good. The local communities value their halls as a meeting place; a venue for social functions which draw the community together; in some instances for their displays of local history and for their role in defining their local community. The Committees generally acknowledge the financial pressures which Council has in managing its assets and that the future of the halls will be mainly in their hands. Council does not have the available staff resources to manage the halls and their fundraising activities, and whilst assistance can be provided in preparing and managing grants they will not be achieved without the Committee of Management applying initiative and time.
The outcome of the consultation for each of the halls referred to in recommendation 6 is as follows.
Argents Hill Hall
A previous report on the condition of the hall was prepared by a structural engineer in 2003. The major works identified at that time were:
· Plate bearers are required between the main hall building and the stage/storeroom section of the building to reduce spreading of the structure
· Install additional hanging beams in the ceiling to reattach the ceiling joists to remove the sag in the ceiling.
These works have not been undertaken.
The Annual General Meeting of the Hall Committee of Management was held on 27 August 2007 and attended by 28 people, including Councillor Flack and the General Manager. The Committee discussed capital works and repairs which are required to bring the building up to standard. The works and also fundraising options via Work for the Dole and Regional Partnerships have also been discussed at a subsequent Committee meeting. The recent decision by the Federal Government to put on hold the consideration of any projects under Regional Partnerships will at a minimum delay the capacity of the Hall Committee to raise these funds.
Council has also prepared a report on the condition of the hall, the estimated cost of the required works and opportunities for funding. This report has been submitted to the Committee of Management for their information and action.
The report estimates the cost of maintenance and capital works required to bring the hall up to a satisfactory standard to be $38,569. The majority of the cost is not related to any POPE approval but to needed capital and maintenance works.
The Committee of Management seeks to have their hall available for a range of fundraising and social activities which does require the building to have a POPE approval. The requirement for a POPE approval relates to entertainment provided in the hall, where it is advertised or promoted as being available for the general public to attend and where there is some form of admission charge to attend, either at the door, by donation or purchase of tickets. Council has previously resolved that a disabled toilet facility should be a condition of a POPE approval as it is required by the Disability Discrimination Act. In practical terms the provision of an internal unisex disabled toilet also improves the appeal of the hall for hirers.
The work which is required at the Hall is such that it is difficult to foresee it being undertaken by voluntary labour. In its current state there is also little likelihood of it attracting regular casual hirers to improve its income stream. Given the cost of the required works and its existing usage, Council should not assume full financial responsibility but may consider making a contribution such as the provision of paint and other materials for use by a Work for the Dole team and/or volunteers.
A well attended Annual General Meeting of the Committee of Management was held on 18 November 2007 which discussed the upgrading of the hall to a POPE standard. The Committee of Management seeks to have their hall available for a range of fundraising and social activities which means that it needs to have a POPE approval.
In July 2007, the Committee of Management and Council were successful at the second attempt in securing $12,600 in funding under the Area Assistance Scheme for the provision of a disabled toilet. The Hall Committee is seeking to convert an existing storeroom within the hall to be the disabled toilet and are proposing to engage a local plumber to undertake the work.
The provision of a disabled toilet is the most important step towards the Hall receiving a POPE licence. It was reported to Council on 18 October 2007 that there are several other more minor matters which would also need to be attended to.
The Committee of Management is to meet to finalise the arrangements for the provision of the disabled toilet which should be completed by 30 June 2008. The Committee has been requested to meet with the General Manager and Council staff on site to investigate the possibility of finishing all required works to enable the issue of a POPE licence.
Pioneer Community Centre
The Annual General Meeting of the Committee of Management was held on 31 August 2007 with 5 people in attendance. The Committee has worked hard to maintain an income stream via the major tenants and casual users but as indicated by the number in attendance at the AGM they would greatly benefit from additional volunteers to assist in their work.
The major tenants of the Community Centre are Aunt Emily’s, community Radio Nambucca and the Saturday afternoon market. Other uses have been for music lessons, TAFE sewing classes, a youth transitions program and casual meetings by groups such as the Lands Council, Back to Bowra and Landcare. It is a smaller size hall and with an attached kitchen and deck it is a venue more suited to meetings than other halls. The lower level which is occupied by Radio Nambucca is cramped and has poor amenity to the extent that it’s difficult to accept it being a satisfactory and permanent home for this important community service.
For the financial year to 30 June 2007, the Committee of Management had a total income of $5,838 and total expenses of $5,202 providing for an operating surplus of $636. The Committee has a bank balance of $1,388 as at 30 June 2007. For 2006/2007, Council paid $1,950 in operating expenses.
The hall does not have a POPE and would at the least require upgraded exits, disabled access to the street, a disabled toilet, and a fire detection system between the 3 levels within the building being the radio station, hall/shop and upper residential area. In 2004, the cost of this work was estimated at $50,000.
Unlike the other Halls referred to in this report, there are a number of community halls and facilities in Bowraville which can provide venues for meetings. The Bowraville Theatre, Grants Hall, the Bowraville Recreation Club, the Bowraville & District Ex-Services Club as well as Church halls all provide meeting venues. As well as overlapping in facilities and services, there are also many organisations in Bowraville competing for what seems to be a dwindling pool of volunteers and donations.
At the Annual General Meeting there was general discussion about the future of the Centre. The Committee has previously suggested that the building be sold to Radio Nambucca for a minimal sum, but the Committee has advised they are considering other options.
Unlike most of the halls, the Pioneer Community Centre is unencumbered freehold, classified as operational land under the Local Government Act. There is an opportunity to consider redirecting its asset value to improve the viability of other halls and its existing major tenants. Expressions of interest have been received for the purchase of the Centre.
One such option which has been discussed is the sale of the building with a long term lease in place for Aunt Emily’s and then using part of the proceeds to assist the relocation of Radio Nambucca to the Tewinga Community Centre. Relocation opportunities for Radio Nambucca are restricted because they require “line of sight” to Mt Yarrahappinni to allow transmission of their microwave signal. The Tewinga Community Centre provides this line of sight.
This is a small community hall and the Committee of Management has queried the need for a POPE approval due to its nature and use for mainly meetings and the occasional private function or party. In these circumstances it is agreed that a POPE approval is not required and would have no practical benefit in terms of its level of usage. The hall is in reasonable condition.
Tewinga Community Centre
The Tewinga Community Centre is a reasonably new building of concrete block construction on a concrete slab. The hall is not licensed as a POPE.
Ten people attended the Annual General Meeting on 29 November 2007. In relation to the proposal by Radio Nambucca it was noted that negotiations are continuing.
Given the good condition of the Tewinga Community Centre it receives very little use. Currently it is used for indoor bowls every second Thursday and for the occasional meetings of the Committee of Management. With this usage pattern there is no requirement for a POPE.
The Committee of Management are dedicated in using voluntary labour to maintain the centre and its grounds but similar to the Pioneer Community Centre their numbers are small and the same group cannot be expected to carry out the voluntary work indefinitely.
Warrell Creek Hall
The building has had considerable work undertaken over the past three years by an active Committee of Management. This work includes new exits to the hall, new disabled access ramp and painting by a Work for the Dole project.
The Committee is proceeding to install an internal unisex disabled toilet as well as a septic collection tank with the objective of receiving a POPE approval. This will allow the hall to be used for its traditional functions. It would seem likely that the Committee of Management will achieve POPE approval in the near future.
There has been consultation with the Committees of Management.
There are no significant implications for the environment. Work is being undertaken at Warrell Creek Hall to prevent pollution.
As discussed, the local communities value their halls as a meeting place; a venue for social functions which draw the community together; in some instances for their displays of local history and for their role in defining their local community. However the usage of the halls has declined over the decades as real incomes, mobility, alternative attractions and demands on time have all increased.
There are no significant economic issues.
There are no particular risks as a consequence of this report.
· Direct and indirect impact on current and future budgets
At this stage there are no direct impacts on Council’s budget. However if action is not taken to reduce the increasing unfunded liability attached to hall maintenance and necessary capital upgrading then the indirect impact on future budgets will increase.
· Source of fund and any variance to working funds
At this stage there is no requirement for working funds.