New look for Naracoorte?

WOULD you like to see the centre of Naracoorte get a massive facelift?

Would you support Naracoorte Lucindale Council potentially putting several million dollars towards the project?

Would shifting the Visitor Information Centre into the town centre deal a hammer blow to the Sheep's Back Museum?

These are some of the key questions the council is asking the community to answer after it released concept plans for a multi-million dollar revamp of the town centre precinct.

Mayor Erika Vickery said a key reason for developing the concept was the ageing Naracoorte Public Library and a desire to combine some of the council's key assets and services.

Matthews Architects developed the concept plans free of charge and Mrs Vickery said the council was now seeking public feedback.

The council's chief executive officer Helen Macdonald said much of the focus of any potential upgrade would be the "out of date" library.

"There is major work (on the library) that is absolutely required," she said.

A leaking roof and lack of disabled amenities, as well as the general size and layout of the library were offered as reasons the facility could go a to a total redesign rather than just a patch-up.

"A library is more than just about books," Mrs Vickery said. "It's a community centre."

The council heads said the idea of an upgrade had been bandied about for around the past 18 months - with the council looking to gain funding through the Regional Development Australia Fund for a potential community services centre last year.

It was decided after progressing through the stages of the grant funding that the council was not ready - with no concept plans at that time for what the grant money could be spent on.

The upgrades detailed in the concept plan - which suggest a revamp to the library and council chambers, the closing off of Jones St and joining of the town squares, the conversion of parking around the squares to angle parking rather than parallel and the transforming of DeGaris Pl to be more pedestrian friendly - are not going to come cheap.

So how much will it cost?

Mrs Vickery estimated up to $5 million may be required for the works, leaving the question of who foots the bill.

"That money would potentially be from grants," she said. "Hopefully on a dollar for dollar basis."

Or the council could look to borrow money and pay it off down the track.

"The project lends itself to paying off over a number of years," Mrs Vickery continued.

"So future generations who are getting the benefit from the upgrades are the ones paying for it."

Both Mrs Vickery and Dr Macdonald said a lot depended on what community feedback council received.

The closing of the section of Jones St which separates the town squares was seen as a positive move.

"The closing of Jones St would allow better use of the town centre," Dr Macdonald said.

"You can't go up past the main street from it and you can only turn left...it is a bit of a parking area."

The council calculated that closing that section of road and changing the parking spaces either side to angle parking would result in a net gain of parking spaces.

But for all the positive talk about beautifying the town centre and offering new streamlined services, the council knows not everyone will be happy with the possibility of so much money being spent on Naracoorte rather than the wider council area.

Some members of the community from outside of Naracoorte's town limits have made their views known to council - much preferring an upgrade of roads or other projects which will have a perceived wider benefit to the whole district.

Dr Macdonald dismissed claims the council was being too Naracoorte-centric.

"It just so happens Naracoorte is the main commercial centre," she said, pointing to the council's major project plan which includes roadworks out of town.

"This is our district's major library service."

Both Dr Macdonald and Mrs Vickery said they empathised with people outside of Naracoorte - as both commute into town from outlying areas to work.

"It's not just for town people," Mrs Vickery added. "It's not just about the council chambers and offices - it's a community centre."

Wait, hasn't this been in the news before?

Last year when the idea of a community services centre was floated there was talk of relocating the Visitor Information Centre from the Sheep's Back Museum to the town centre.

Despite there being some resistance to the idea last time, the council is still looking at the possibility of centralising its services.

Dr Macdonald said the idea of moving the centre into town would help save money - with the VIC currently costing a quarter of a million dollars per year to operate at its current location.

She said arguments that moving the VIC would affect the Sheep's Back Museum did not hold water.

"That essentially means the council is subsidising the Sheep's Back," Dr Macdonald said.

"It's a question of equity and fairness."

Both the mayor and chief officer agreed there was a lot more to be considered, and a lot more work to be done, before any plans were made on this long-term project.

The first phase of community consultation is now open, closing on April 30. To comment, visit the council website.

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