Business in Glen dismayed by council decision to spend Drought Communities Programme funding on toilet block

CONCERNED: Business in Glen (BIG) secretary David Scott is puzzled by Glen Innes Severn Council's decision to spend government funding on a toilet block, rather than a PA system for the high street.
CONCERNED: Business in Glen (BIG) secretary David Scott is puzzled by Glen Innes Severn Council's decision to spend government funding on a toilet block, rather than a PA system for the high street. "We can't think of any potential benefit to local businesses from this."

Business In Glen (BIG) is “confused and bewildered" by Glen Innes Severn Council’s recent decision to spend government stimulus funding on a park toilet block, rather than a suggested public address system in the main street.

“Frankly, we are at a loss to understand this decision,” BIG secretary David Scott said.

“Councillors provided absolutely no information to explain how this decision will benefit the local economy, which is the express purpose of these funds. We can’t think of any potential benefit to local businesses from this.”

Business In Glen is calling on councillors to immediately review this decision.

They respectfully request a detailed explanation as to “why and how an amenities block in a little known, rarely used small corner block, one kilometre from the CBD, will benefit local businesses who are suffering economic stress due to the drought”.

The organization represents local businesses in the Glen Innes area.

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Council senior staff sought submissions from local businesses as to how to spend approximately $171,000, part of the Federal Government’s Federal Government's Drought Communities Programme, a $1 million economic stimulus scheme for drought-affected shires. The money had to be spent by June 30, 2019.

The remaining $829,000 was allocated to three other shire-wide projects at the October Council meeting.

In their submission to council, BIG suggested a versatile PA system in Grey Street that could be used for events, and to create an ambient atmosphere during festivals and other times of the year.

It could promote sales / specials and new product ranges for BIG members, thus also serving businesses outside the main precinct.

Local tradesmen would design and implement it, and it would create a local job for an announcer.

"This would,” BIG argued, “put money back into our community as per the funding guidelines, and sustain employment.”

BIG also proposed holding a street party in June, to replace Chill in Glen (not running until July). The PA system would help bring the party to life.

This free community event would be entirely funded by the grant, and organised by Council in partnership with BIG, GLENRAC, and GIHVA.

“It would bring the community together as per the eligibility criteria to showcase everything Glen Innes has to offer,” BIG wrote.

This proposal was included in the Business Paper for Thursday, November 22.

Graham Price, council’s director of development, planning, and regulatory services, recommended that council implement the project straight away.

He was confident in the project, which met all eligibility criteria, and was low risk for council.

Initial conversations suggested that council could implement the sound system upgrade and the party before June 30, 2019, and within the amount of $170,900.

Conversations with Austrade also concluded that the project met the criteria, and was highly likely to be approved.

Mayor Carol Sparks called it “a fabulous idea [that] will really lift the town”.

Cr. Sparks was interviewed on ABC local radio the day before the council meeting, where she further extolled the values and benefits of a PA system in the main street for the whole community.

At the Council meeting the next day, councillors voted 6:1 not to accept the recommendation of its senior staff, but instead to use the funds to install a toilet block in Melling Park.

"We need a toilet in our parks, and the closest toilet was a long way away," Cr Sparks explained.

"It's an absolute need, and because it's such a beautiful little park, and they've got great equipment there, it was an obvious choice for us. We want our community to have all the amenities required."

After the November council meeting, several business owners expressed disappointment, and in some cases despair to the BIG executive over what they felt was a total lack of commitment from councillors to support them during this difficult time.

All local businesses are suffering as a result of the ongoing drought in NSW, BIG stated.

BIG complained that the park was rarely used, and located nowhere near any businesses or business activity.

Melling Park is on the south-east corner of the Bourke and Coronation Streets intersection, approximately one kilometre from the CBD. It is adjacent to the West Glen Innes Infants’ School, and squarely in the centre of the West Glen Innes suburban area of town.

“Melling Park does not even appear on the Glen Innes Town Map distributed by the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre,” a BIG spokesman said.

“That map shows a barely readable Coronation Park adjacent to an infants’ school, in the middle of a suburban area, over the railway line! Melling Park has recently had grant monies spent on the installation of playground and gym equipment directed towards the benefit of locals. This park is not on the Tourist Track!”

BIG understands that one of the criteria from the Government is that Council must engage local contractors for the work.

"Has anybody tried to get a plumber, electrician, or builder lately?” one business owner asked. “They are all flat out. Trying to get this project done by June 2019? Tell ‘em they’re dreaming.”