ARMIDALE Regional Council and the now disbanded Civic Precinct Committee continue to butt heads over proposed plans for a Civic Precinct in Cinders Lane.
The Civic Precinct Committee has lobbied for a new library, performance art centre and refurbished town hall for more than fifteen years.
Committee member Bruce Menzies said they are frustrated with a total lack of communication and transparency from council.
“It’s a place that’s ideally suited for a hub in the middle of our city that can reinvigorate it, we’ve been frustrated by the fact that there’s no communication at all with the people who have done so much work to obtain our goal,” he said.
“We wonder why the council administrator won’t speak to us, and we suspect that there are other business influences afoot, but we have no evidence for that.”
The new library has been on the strategic plan twice as a top priority for council.
The Civic Precinct Committee has since been disbanded by council to reform as the Civic Advisory Committee.
Changes to the terms of reference mean that it can no longer operate a working account or expend funds for fundraising, a move that Mr Menzies believes is diversionary.
“I don’t know anything about the Civic Advisory Committee, it was the brainchild of the current administrator, we don’t know who’s on the board, we don’t know when it meets, we don’t know what it’s there for,” he said.
“I haven’t been invited and no-one knows who is on the committee, again a complete lack of transparency, a complete lack of information to the community about what’s actually going on.”
Frustrations were aired in speeches by Anaiwan elder Steve Widders and former Mayor Herman Beyersdorf on Sunday at Day on the Gravel.
Both expressed that the committee has attempted to apply for numerous state and federal grants to pay for the new library but council will not support it.
“$700,000 has been spent on plans already and we can get full government funding and private funding without any cost to the ratepayers but the council in their lack of wisdom, the last council also, has declined it,” Mr Widders said.
Armidale Regional Council Administrator Dr Ian Tiley said he met with the group months ago and asked them to compromise on the $13 million library they had envisioned.
“When the council has significant financial sustainability problems it would be inappropriate to borrow that level of money to fund that particular library,” he said.
“It’s also true that they were asking for $5 million of the $9 million the government made available under the Stronger Regions fund through the council merger when the reality is that the $27 million in financial infrastructure backlog desperately needs to be addressed.
“I chose to apply some of that funding to address that infrastructure backlog, that’s a far more financially responsible stance to take in my view.”
Mr Tiley has since approved $4.6 million to be applied to roads and other council infrastructure projects such as improvements to roads and timber bridges.
The new library has been under discussion by former Armidale Dumaresq Council since September 2001 and Mr Tiley said it should not be forgotten that they were unable to find a solution over a 15 year period.
“After eight weeks I met with both groups and there was an expectation that I would come up with a solution immediately,” he said.
“I’m in my 22nd week and by week 24 I will have a solution.”
A report with a recommendation for the location and viability of a new library is expected to be before council at the meeting on October 26.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.