Vince Kelly, East Ballina
Ballina Shire Council has again preferred commercial property speculation ahead of community infrastructure. This time it is in respect to an indoor heated swimming pool.
On February 26 Ballina Council’s Commercial Services Committee met in secret to consider two offers to purchase council’s commercial site in Tamarine Drive. But property markets being what they are nothing stays secret for long.
At the meeting Council rejected a fair value cash offer of $860,000 from a private consortium. They planned to build a new indoor heated pool and gymnasium within twelve months.
Council accepted a ‘cash and land swap’ offer of $1.2 million from Fire and Rescue NSW, who plan to build a new fire station. The purchase consideration comprises cash of only $500,000 and the transfer of the exiting fire station in Crane Street to the council for a non cash consideration of $700,000.
The $700,000 is an inflated figure fabricated by Council’s Commercial Services Division and substantially overvalues the fire station. This portrays the Firies’ offer of $1.2 million as more generous. But when the true value of the fire station is factored in the two offers are comparable.
On a cash basis the consortium’s offer is substantially better as ratepayers receive $860,000 in cash compared to the Firies’ offer of only $500,000 in cash. With the consortium’s offer the community obtains a new indoor heated swimming pool, gymnasium and additional lifestyle facilities. Ratepayers’ funds will not be required to build and maintain the facility or cover the ongoing operating costs.
With the Fires’ offer ratepayers receive $360,000 less in cash and a special purpose building with restricted usage. The property is of little strategic benefit and does nothing to assist Council meet the community’s expectations regarding infrastructure delivery.
At its Finance Committee meeting on March 4 Council discussed building its own indoor heated pool adjacent to Ballina swimming pool. This will cost ratepayers at least $2 million and it will not be ready for about two years. Plus there will be ongoing maintenance and operating costs.
If the consortium’s offer had been accepted there would have been a cash generation of $2.86 million which could have been used to fund other infrastructure projects.
Of course the acceptance of the Firies’ offer does not make sense when compared to the consortium’s offer. So why did the council decide in favour of the Firies? Is there a hidden agenda? Well yes, there is!
You see, Council already owns properties adjoining the Crane Street fire station and Council is more interested in consolidating a future commercial development site than providing community infrastructure.