Bendigo’s newly-elected councillors have banded together to scuttle a proposal for a $400,000 community hall which was to be built at the Epsom Primary School.
A proposal introduced by councillor James Williams at last night’s meeting would have seen the City of Greater Bendigo partner with the school to build a community joint use facility in one of the city’s fastest growing areas.
A maximum of half a million dollars would have been allocated to build a space to be used for a playgroup, community group meetings and allied health purposes.
The Whipstick ward councillor warned his colleagues they needed to back the project at last night’s meeting or they would miss an opportunity to ‘future proof” Epsom’s “passive community facilities” and risk facing a community backlash.
“We really need to make this decision tonight – if we don’t, it will be impossible for [Epsom Primary School] to include in the future and it would certainly cost a hell of a lot more than what the opportunity at the moment provides,” Cr Williams said.
But only one of his colleagues backed Cr Williams’ call – the only other re-elected councillor, Rod Fyffe.
Video of last night's council meeting - skip forward to 1:47:00 to see discussion on the Epsom Primary School proposal. Article continues below video.
Fellow Whipstick ward councillor and Epsom resident Andrea Metcalf spoke against the proposal saying it was an unnecessary use of ratepayers’ money.
“With rate capping in force now, every project which comes across the council table needs to be fully scrutinised before the council can commit funds to it,” Cr Metcalf said.
“We need to improve our financial decision making.
“I was able to ascertain that there are at least six buildings in the White Hills/Epsom and Huntly area that can be used for community meetings and playgroups.
“I believe residents would like to utilise existing buildings for the purposes outlined in this report rather than build a new one for the same purpose, therefore I can’t support this recommendation.”
Epsom Primary School is currently undergoing a $5.7 million upgrade on the back of state government funds.
The school and state government have a deadline of January 2018 to complete construction works.
The council report tabled last night said a decision as to whether the city would proceed with the its contribution to the upgrade – community joint use facility – needed to be made last night for tender documentation to be finalised to meet that deadline.
Councillors Metcalf and Williams have been contacted for further comment.
The third Whipstick ward councill Julie Hoskin – who sided with the five other new councillors to vote down the proposal – declined to comment.