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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Alternative site for Fire Station

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Vince Kelly, East Ballina

Thank you Echonetdaily for publishing my letter ‘Council prefers property over swimming pool’, March 13.

Ballina Shire does need a new fire station and I support the Firies in this endeavour. Ballina airport also needs a dedicated fire fighting service.

I have not seen the business paper submitted to Ballina council’s secret Commercial Services Committee meeting of February 26. But on March 14, I received a letter from the general manager of Ballina Shire Council which effectively confirmed that my letter of March 13 published in the Echonetdaily is factually correct.

The minutes of the Commercial Services secret meeting have been posted on the council’s website and they are very concerning. They state that Council resolved ‘to accept the offer from Fire & Rescue New South Wales for the purchase and sale of the properties as detailed within this report, as this proposal is considered to provide the best outcome, both financially and from a social perspective to the community’.

How could this statement be correct given the compelling reasons in my letter of March 13 that the opposite is the case?

Councillors knew that the secret report would not be available to the public until after the property transactions have been finalised. So have the councillors contrived the resolution to mislead ratepayers into believing that they have got a good deal?

Did the report accurately represent and analyse the two purchase offers? Were the councillors misled by the report? Did the councillors fail to undertake and effect due diligence in reaching their decisions?

The purchase of the Crane Street fire station does not comply with council’s Property Investment and Development Policy.

There were two purchasers for the council’s Tamarind Drive site both of whom are proposing to build very important community facilities. Both should have been accommodated and council should not have been considering one offer over the other.

Council has not been able to offer the indoor pool consortium any acceptable alternative site. However council has substantial land holdings within the Southern Cross Industrial Estate and they should have been able to provide the Firies with a suitable alternative site closer to the airport. This site could have also been considered for stationing the dedicated airport fire fighting facility and perhaps partnering with the Firies.

Council should have achieved two property sales instead of one which would then have increased the cash generation from the $2.86 million identified in my letter of March 13 up to say $3.5 million. These funds could have been leveraged to obtain dollar for dollar grants which would have created a capital pool of say $7 million to help bridge Ballina Council’s $20 million community infrastructure funding shortfall.



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