Thursday, 23 October 2008

Future of the Town Hall - II

Last night the Wallace Community Board held a public meeting to discuss the future of the Town Hall. A short presentation given by Kevin McNaught (SDC) covered the issues of seismic strength, cost to upgrade, funding options and timelines. The floor was then opened by Wallace Community Board chairperson, Mike Whale, for the public's feedback. Despite the small public turnout, the contributions represented a diversity of views.

In short, to seismically upgrade the building to a reasonable standard for its usage would cost about $270,000 plus GST and we would have 25 years to do this. This would mean a rateable increase of about $65 per property, per year, for 20 years. Some of the feedback was that the hall is not used enough to warrant this much burden on Otautau ratepayers assuming the likelihood that no other funding can be found. Others felt that no upgrade was necessary at all because the building is sound and has easily survived several earthquakes with no damage. Still others felt that the heritage value of the building was an important factor not easily quantified by a pure economic view of the situation.

The alternatives to seismic upgrade are for the Southland District Council and Wallace Community Board to divest themselves of the building by selling or demolishing it. Another option would be the council gifting the building to a trust who would then be able to get a levy through ratepayers as well as applying for funding. There are other towns with trust-owned community centres. The Council did not mention 'gifting', however.

Demolition would cost anywhere from $40,000-$70,000 which would fall on the community board and ratepayers. The cultural loss of such a building to the town, of course, not quantifiable.

As the discussion wound down, Mr Whale took the opportunity to ask who was in favour of keeping the building and who was against it. The majority voted in favour. However, only about 40 people voted which is perhaps 10% of the ratepayers who would be affected by the rate increase. The chairperson urged that others who weren't at the meeting should express their views by contacting the Wallace Community Board. You can do this by emailing Shirley Manson at the Southland District Council Otautau Office

1 comment:

Cathy said...

At the meeting someone asked if funding sources had been sought. The presenter said 'no' but he had talked to someone from Venture Southland who said that the likelihood was greater that we would not get funding. The presenter said that basically we had to fund this ourselves because it's in our town.

What irks me is that rural towns like ours spend lots of money in Invercargill every day, supporting Invercargill businesses. If Invercargill did not have rural people as a source of income and had to fund their own compliance upgrades, would their buildings be in such good shape?

It seems like we are being burdened unfairly with the cost of this upgrade. We have a much smaller ratepayer base than a larger city, and so percentage-wise these upgrades cost us much more than they would if the building was in Invercargill.

I really think this should tip the balance of what funding agencies can do for us - to help spread the burden of compliance over a wider network rather than making it solely the responsibility of each little town.

This is an historic building and every town should be entitled to keep its history. To say each town is on its own when it comes to building compliance for historic buildings, is simply not fair. We did not vote for the Building Act to suddenly increase its earthquake standards. We are, in effect, a casualty of this legislation.

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