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Council decline request from seniors for refund

Grafton Senior Citizens won’t get their $20,000 donation to council back, despite being kicked out of the facility they contributed towards.

In 2001 the group donated $20,000 towards the cost of Clarence Valley Council providing a permanent place for them at the new Grafton Community and Function Centre.

In June this year, council informed the senior citizens that they would have to leave because the community centre was going to become the home to a new Headspace youth mental health service.

Grafton Senior Citizens then wrote to council asking for their donation back, but council has now refused, instead voting at the September meeting to return $5000.

Cr Karen Toms led the push to return a quarter of the donation rather than the full amount.

Prior to discussion, Cr Richie Williamson ask why the figure of $5000 was chosen. Cr Toms said there was no ‘scientific reason’ but she was not prepared to return the requested $20,000.

Cr Toms argued that council had provided senior citizens with a permanent place at the community centre for 16 years, free of the usual fees.
“If they were to pay the hiring fees for the past 16 years I can assure you it would be more than $20,000,” she said.
Cr Toms added that council had also recently donated $5000 to the group to assist with the cost of an alternate meeting place at Jockey Club. She described return of further $5000 as a ‘compromise’.

Cr Arthur Lysaught was against Cr Toms’ motion. He described the senior citizens group as “incredible contributors to this city over many years in many ways”, and refusing to give back $20,000 was “mean and miserable”.

Cr Andrew Baker supported the argument to return $5000 rather than $20,000.
Cr Baker emphasised that the money was a donation, and questioned whether council was going to be the “never-ending generous council” that agrees to all requests.
“If it is a liability on council to give back at any point it is requested then we should record it as a liability,” Cr Baker said.

Cr Ellem supported returning the full $20,000, saying that the group made the donation in good faith, and was then told by council that it could no longer have the centre as a meeting place.
“What a slap in the face for the senior citizens of Grafton – it’s unconscionable behaviour really from this council to not listen to their request – it’s a reasonable one,” Cr Ellem said.

Cr Clancy also spoke in favour of returning the full amount.

Crs Debrah Novak, Jason Kingsley and Richie Williamson did not speak in debate, but voted in favour of returning $5000 to the group.

Cr Simmons, who also didn’t speak, sided with those against the $5000 amount.