Historic association in spotlight

Historic association in spotlight

The Beachport District Development Association is set to end a near 30-year association with the town’s historic institute hall unless a financial burden is lifted by Wattle Range Council.

An outcome could be known as early as tonight when the council holds its April monthly meeting and considers a staff report about the BDDA’s obligation to pay an annual $6000 insurance premium.

The BDDA came into existence in the mid-1990s when the then Beachport District Council was set to sell the colonial-era landmark.

This galvanised the community to form the BDDA with local grazier Sue Wheal at the helm.

Following a public backlash against the mooted sale, the BDDA secured a lease with the council of the stone structure which dates back to 1882.

By fundraising, volunteer labour, cash donations and government grants, the building was upgraded, toilets and air-conditioning installed and the South Coast Cinema created.

However, the BDDA has now determined that its use of the Institute Hall is limited to about seven committee meetings per annum.

Other community groups make use of the building and make donations to the BDDA.

Under the terms of its lease with Wattle Range Council, the BDDA is obliged to pay an annual insurance premium of $6000 to the council.

BDDA secretary Ros Brown said such a sum absorbs much of its fundraising revenue from events like the annual duck race in the Pool of Siloam and the thrice-yearly market days.

In her letter to council in December, Ms Brown said the cinema operator had a separate arrangement with the council.

Ms Brown said the BDDA lease with the council had now expired and her group did not intend to renew it.

“As of February, the BDDA will not utilise the Institute for meetings and will hand over responsibility for usage of the building by other groups back to the Wattle Range Council,” Ms Brown said.

A report on the situation from council chief executive Ben Gower forms part of tonight’s agenda.

Mr Gower has recommended the council enter into a new agreement with the BDDA to lease the Beachport Institute under similar terms and conditions as the previous lease with the exclusion of the lessee’s responsibility to pay for building insurance.

“Council officers met with members of the BDDA executive and the cinema operator in early February to discuss future management options for the building,” Mr Gower said.

“The BDDA executive reconfirmed they could no longer afford to pay for the building insurance.

“All three [management] options discussed included the requirement for Wattle Range Council to cover the cost of building insurance.”

Mr Gower said the BDDA executive was interested in pursuing the option whereby council met the cost of insurance.

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