Councillors have rejected Clarence Valley Council (CVC) staff’s recommendation to allocate surplus funds – from the transfer of ownership of Clarence Care and Support (CC+S) to Wesley Mission – towards planning and construction of Stage 2 of the Maclean Community Precinct (MCP).
In December 2017, Clarence Valley’s councillors supported allocating $12,000 towards the planning and creation of the Maclean Community Precinct, which was prompted at the time by “current infrastructure grant opportunities”.
Last week, it was announced that CVC had applied for and been approved to receive $4,997,000 from the Australian and NSW government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery (BLER) fund, to extensively refurbish the Maclean civic hall.
“The [hall] will also be altered to enhance community engagement,” the report to last week’s July 27 CVC meeting stated.
“Existing buildings will be removed to create an outdoor space that will visually connect River Street with the Clarence River.
“This newly created public park will offer spill-over space during large events at the hall.
“The facility will serve community needs day-to-day and also provide a community refuge during natural disasters.”
However, while Stage 1 is set to go, a majority of councillors did not support earmarking the surplus Wesley funds ($3.2million) towards “planning for Stage 2 … in conjunction with delivery of Stage 1”, and the “design and construction of Stage 2 … prioritising the Maclean Library relocation”.
Additionally, staff recommended the allocation of proceeds from the sale of 2 Short Street, Maclean (when it is sold), towards Stage 2 – the property was originally purchased with CC+S funds.
Meanwhile, Cr Jason Kingsley had other ideas.
He gained the support of his fellow councillors, apart from Cr Karen Toms, to “defer” making a decision about the “allocation of the CC+S surplus funds [until] the August 2021 CVC meeting – to allow for consideration of a list of priority community-focused projects”.
Councillors are due to discuss the list at the August councillor workshop”.
During debate, Cr Kingsley said it was not his intent “to rule anything in or out” and that the MCP “is a worthy project … but there might be more”.
Cr Peter Ellem said, “As chair of the regional library committee, the Maclean library needs to triple in size” and be moved to “a more prominent location.”
Observing that “Maclean hasn’t seen much love from this term of council”, he also acknowledged that “there may be other good projects” elsewhere in the valley.
“[I] agree with Cr Kingsley that a short list of projects should come to the workshop,” he said.
“It should be that way every time spare grant money is up for grabs … it should be a given.”
Cr Karen Toms said she wanted “to complete the job properly” by supporting the officer’s recommendation, because “it’s definitely supported by the community already”.
Cr Kingsley said in his right of reply, that he knew the “Maclean community wanted the MCP to proceed, but there are probably plenty of other things on wish lists of community groups and in other areas”.
“The funding can be split and … a list is usually brought to councillors and considered on their merits,” he said.