Naracoorte town revamp plans shelved

NARACOORTE Lucindale Council has - for now - shelved plans for a major overhaul of the town centre precinct.

Naracoorte Lucindale Council will focus its efforts on just the library instead of a major town centre revamp.

Naracoorte Lucindale Council will focus its efforts on just the library instead of a major town centre revamp.

It will instead focus on developing a plan to carry out much-needed maintenance and repair work on the Naracoorte Public Library, which has been waiting for such attention for more than a decade.

The decision not to pursue a potential multi-million dollar upgrade of the town centre - which could have involved shifting assets and services to the library/council offices area to create a more concentrated council precinct - followed considerable public backlash against the idea.

At a special meeting on the issue two weeks ago, several councillors spoke strongly against spending millions on such a project when times were tough and the council had other expensive priorities. They said an overwhelming majority of people who they had spoken to about the idea were against it.

In a workshop immediately following Tuesday night's May monthly meeting, there was a consensus that it was the wrong time to be considering such an expensive and involved project, and that fixing the library was the more pressing issue.

Cr Damien Ross couldn't stay for the workshop, but set the tone for the discussion as he was leaving the meeting when he offered: "Do the roof, that's all I'll say."

Mayor Erika Vickery agreed with Cr Ross's point that fixing the library needed to be a priority, but she asked councillors to also keep in mind how the community might want the facility to look in "five or maybe 10 years".

Cr Craig McGuire - the most outspoken of those opposing the town centre precinct concept - said he would like the community to be involved in developing any plan. He felt that now people knew the council was focussed only on the library, they would come to councillors with their ideas.

Mrs Vickery agreed the people should be involved, but said the council needed to first develop a plan so it had a direction to take to the community, rather than follow the same path it did with the town centre precinct idea and offer a very basic concept and call for comment.

"I think we do now need to focus on the library and what we want in our library," she said.

"(But we need to) give the community something to comment on. To go out there with no ideas is what we've done already."

She suggested, and Cr John Flynn agreed, that researching what other libraries were doing and planning for the needs of future local residents was the best way to go.

Crs Brett Armfield and Malcolm McLean felt the best form of consultation would be talking to library staff and library users about what they wanted to see in their facility.

Cr Ken Schultz said the library had been neglected for a long time and its issues needed addressing as soon as possible, with a sensible budget.

"We've been on the library thing for years...everyone who's spoken to me, understands the library roof needs fixing, it needs to be bigger, but don't go overboard."

Cr Ken Banning was even more to the point: "If you've got a leaky roof, fix the bloody thing."

He added that it was likely that the role of libraries would change a lot in coming years as books became almost obsolete, so he didn't want to see a large spend on the project when roads and other assets were demanding attention.

Cr McGuire repeated his stance that people in the community now needed the chance to give their opinion on the library.

But Cr Flynn agreed with Mrs Vickery's earlier point that they first needed a plan to comment on - "We can't go open-ended again, so they can give us an answer to whatever they feel like."

Cr Banning was in no doubt how people felt: "They are completely against that (town centre precinct) concept. I tell them to write in and they say 'There's no point, you don't listen'.

"The roof needs fixing. That's the reality, if you ignore the reality, I don't know."

CEO Helen Macdonald said there appeared to be two options on the library and asked councillors: "Do you want a quick and dirty, or do you want a more measured approach?

"Would you like maybe $200,000-$500,000 spent on a quick fix, or a more measured approach for maybe $500,000 up, preparing the library for the next 20 years, investing for the future of this community?"

Cr Trevor Rayner said the debate had gone on long enough and the council needed to act.

He recalled 16 years ago going across to the library as a group of councillors to observe the staff using buckets to catch water leaking through the roof.

"Sixteen years ago, and we're still talking about it - I can't believe it," he said.

"You don't need a Taj Mahal, rural Australia is shrinking," said Cr Banning.

Mrs Vickery and Ms Macdonald replied in unison: "Who's talking about a Taj Mahal"?

"The original concept," Cr Banning responded.

Cr McGuire repeated his call for community consultation to take place as part of the planning, and Cr Banning said he'd like to see people asked two simple questions: do they want a new facility, or see the old one fixed.

Mrs Vickery said whichever way they went, the council needed to "make sure we spend our money wisely and it will serve our community for longer than 2-3 years.

"We don't have to make a rash decision - we can gather some information and offer some options.

"Do it over some years so that at the end of that you've got what you want instead of just patching it up."

Ms Macdonald said she was happy to take responsibility for putting together a project plan, which she could probably present at the July council meeting.

Mrs Vickery said it would be good to have a decision made on the project before the council went into caretaker mode in September, before the November council elections.