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Heads-up on Grafton community centre

Grafton Community Centre. Image: Lynne Mowbray.
Clarence Valley Council (CVC) is amid negotiations to establish “a service the community has been crying out for” at the Grafton Community and Function Centre. Last week, CVC’s acting general manager Ashley Lindsay spoke at the monthly meeting of Grafton Senior Citizens, which is a regular user of the Duke Street facility. The council markets the centre as “the ideal venue for your next conference or meeting”. There has been speculation that the mystery tenant, which will lease the entire building, is the federally funded National Youth Mental Health Foundation, better known as Headspace. A clue was made evident when Clarence MP and Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies announced, in early May, that “$170,000 would be provided to establish ‘safe spaces’ for young people over the next 12 months”. “For the next year, while long-term projects like Headspace are established, the NSW Government will invest in The New School of Arts to operate the Pop-Up Youth & Community Drop-In spaces in Grafton, and the Maclean/Yamba area,” Mr Gulaptis said at the time. Meanwhile, Mr Lindsay reportedly told the senior citizens that leasing the building was a part of CVC striving to meet the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future requirements. The Independent sought and received answers via email from CVC, regarding plans for the community centre and how it would appease and/or provide facilities for the various groups who regularly use the centre. Environment Planning and Community director Des Schroder, however, said “it is important to understand council is in sensitive negotiations with a service provider”. “While we are not in a position to give details on that service, it is one that the community has been crying out for. “Council believes there are benefits to the entire community if that service makes its way to the Clarence Valley, and will do all it can to ensure it has clear passage. “It is unfortunate that there will be some disruption to current user groups, but the overall benefits to the community are overwhelmingly positive. “Council has an obligation to keep negotiations around all commercial arrangements confidential, at least until a final agreement is reached. “Although negotiations are progressing and there is an expectation they will be formalised, those negotiations are not complete.” Geoff Helisma: CVC will reportedly spend $5,200 on subsidising the Grafton Senior Citizens by paying $100 per week to rent a space at the Clarence River Jockey Club and forego the $1,560 in rent the group was paying; could you please clarify how this works, including any state government funding/subsidy and how that works in the overall scheme of things? Des Schroder: Council has historically subsidised meetings of the Grafton Senior Citizens. Council staff will be recommending to council that those subsidies continue by providing financial support to the Grafton Senior Citizens under council’s Community Initiatives Program, to cover the cost of renting the new meeting facilities at the Grafton race course. GH: Is CVC doing something similar for the other groups that were permanent tenants? DS: Council is working with other groups to provide alternative venues. Council believes it has found alternative venues for all current user groups. GH: What groups were regularly using the facility? DS: Groups who currently use the facility might not want that detail known. Council will not disclose private leasing arrangements. GH: How much were they paying in rent over a financial year and where will casual users, who previously used the centre, go now? DS: Council is working with other groups to provide alternative venues. Council believes it has found alternative venues for all current user groups. Council will not disclose the groups that currently use the facility nor where they are to meet. GH: In general terms, what was the context behind CVC’s decision to remove the community centre from Grafton? DS: Council will be in a position to answer this question once the new tenant is announced. Mr Schroder declined to answer any questions regarding rent or lease terms due to the ongoing negotiations.