Council land sales to save cash

Lismore City Council voted unanimously to begin the processes to sell the Lismore Neighbourhood Centre, Nimbin caravan park and Terania building in Magellan St that houses ACE North Coast in Lismore.

Council also decided to begin the process of reclassifying the block of land on which the Rochdale Theatre is situated from community to operational but, due to a caveat on the land from the time of its donation, will not be able to sell the property at this time.

Mayor Jenny Dowell said Council had begun investigating possible land sales when they were looking for budgetary savings.

“There is certainly no guarantee these buildings would be sold but we said we’d like to seek some expressions of interest,” Mayor Dowell said. “The tenants of several buildings have expressed some interest in becoming the owners – but that would depend on cost and quite a few negotiations and discussions will need to take place before any decision is made.”

ACE (Adult Community Education) Lismore manager Kerry Johnson said she hoped the community college could stay in the building.

“We like being there, we’ve been there for 15 years and we’d like to see a secure future,” Ms Johnson said. “We’re a not-for-profit organisation that operates four main centres, offering a large range of vocational programs in areas such as IT, conservation and land management, literacy and numeracy training. We run an outreach program for Aboriginal communities and an independent school for Year 9 and 10 students, young people who struggle in a mainstream school.

“We’re the second largest community college in NSW, with our two largest centres in Tweed Heads and Lismore. We have 21 permanent staff in that building and up to 60 students on any one day running around the CBD. We’ve just spent a $50,000 grant renovating the interior, painting and carpet, because it is our intention to stay in the building.

“It would be extremely difficult for us to relocate, it’s not often places come up for rent of that size. If we were to relocate, we’d have to think about moving our head office to Tweed. We ask if Council moves down that track, they take into account a range of issues.”

Ms Johnson said ACE owns its Casino site so it wasn’t out of the question that they could look at purchasing the building.

Lismore Theatre Company director/producer Brian Best said he still felt like the Rochdale was in limbo. Mr Best said he would, however, deliver a cheque to Council this week for $10,000 to cover rent in arrears, as previously Council had not negotiated the terms of a new lease.

“We sit and stew, this is the point. We were told not to pay any rent so the money went into escrow,” Mr Best said. “We were told not to pay rent until they’d sorted out a new lease, for which we’ve been asking for ages. They’ve been very dilatory in managing us, there was always something of higher priority.

“When they call for expressions of interest to sell to a bidder, that’s usually at the highest price, but that’s not going to be so with us, because virtually nobody would want it except us, because it has to be used as a hall or a public building.”

The land on which the Rochdale is situated cannot be sold until Council has gone through a number of administrative processes.

“We’re in a state of flux, but we’ll hold on and do something in the future. Meanwhile we’ll go on presenting plays and shows and endeavouring to expand our membership and bank balance,” Mr Best said.

The Lismore Theatre Company’s next production is Fawlty Towers, beginning on March 12.

“I’m very pleased with it indeed, we seem to have got some people who fit the parts perfectly. Jason Smith is playing Basil and is a very accomplished amateur and could have been a professional had he had the desire,” Mr Best said.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the LTC.

“We are as professional as we can possibly be without being paid,” Mr Best said. “Many of us have earned money in theatre or film – we’re not a village hall stuck out in the back of nowhere trying to put on a show with minimal resources and minimal talent. As far as straight plays go, we’re one of the best societies in northern NSW.”

Tickets for Fawlty Towers can be pre-purchased at Kay’s Second Hand Music and Uncle Peters Books in Lismore.

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