Glen Innes Severn Council will build a youth centre after months of consultation and controversy.

YOUTH CENTRE: Anna Villella works at the Toy Library, which will soon have its building occupied by a youth center.
YOUTH CENTRE: Anna Villella works at the Toy Library, which will soon have its building occupied by a youth center.

At a somewhat acrimonious and even sarcastic meeting on Thursday night, Glen Innes Severn councilors resolved to move on the toy library from its home on Wentworth street and convert the building into the town youth centre.

This ends a twelve month debate about the youth centre, though councilors are still divided on whether the $300,000 facility is needed.

One councilor, Glenn Frendon, said he was worried the youth the council were trying to help would be grandparents if they didn't get a move on with the project.

The old RFS headquarters on Bourke Street which was long considered as an option for the youth centre will now be sold or leased, though the proceeds may or may not go to paying for the centre. The Volunteer Rescue Association last year expressed interest in purchasing the site, which will now go to tender, and has a value of about $180,000.

The toy library will have to find a new home.

The toy library will have to find a new home.

Mayor Sparks has been one of the strongest supporters of establishing a youth centre. She said it would help combat problems facing young people highlighted last year by a spate of suicides and self-harm incidents. She said a building would help by providing a safe place where they can go.

She doesn't think Glen Innes has a problem with young people though.

"I think young people actually have a problem with Glen Innes, because there isn't a place to go."

The debate proposal started a full twelve months ago with the first motion to allocate more resources to helping young people. That led to more work for the youth officer at a cost of $50,000.

In June 2018, councilors Sparks and Newman proposed the establishment of a youth centre at the old rural fire service building at 181 Bourke Street. Council staff were not asked to search for alternatives to that site at the time, though they did apply for a cultural grant to fund the project, which they were refused. The proposal was put to a youth advisory council for consultation in July; in January council staff were asked to look for alternative sites.

One week ago the council business paper came out with a staff recommendation to evict the toy library and make the centre there. Staff also recommended selling Bourke street for $180,000 and using the money to cover some of the $317,855 the new centre will cost; this was strongly opposed by several councilors. 

Councillor Toms said at the meeting that the council had wasted months and ought to have made a direction to staff in June to do further research. He is also not pleased about leaving Bourke street closed for twelve months and now will have to go to tender anyway.

"I would hope that council actually learn something from this exercise and that this process," he said in the meeting.

"I realise that through a roundabout way we might end up with a good outcome."

Councillor Newman argued the process didn't cost any money to ratepayers and gave additional time for consultation through the youth advisory committee.

Councillor Parsons was concerned about making the toy library "potentially homeless".

"What concerns me a little, or a lot, is that the toy library provides quite an essential service to our community," he said.

"Every cent they make they put back into improving or maintaining the toys."

The resolution passed instructs council staff to render assistance to the library, which is a not-for-profit, to get access to grants.

Councilor Smith, the only councilor to vote no on the final resolution, argued it was a waste of money that could have gone to road maintenance or construction.

"I just ask all of us to think long and hard about how we're going to spend the money," he said.

"We can't keep dipping in, dipping in and using whatever reserves we've got because our infrastructure is getting further and further behind."