Armidale's mayor wants to continue to explore options for a hydrotherapy centre for Armidale without incurring cost and to lobby for state government funding.
And at its ordinary council meeting on Wednesday Armidale Regional Council unanimously agreed.
In his Mayoral Minute on the subject Cr Tiley moved that council approach a 'parliamentary representative' to 'secure state government commitment to provision, at its cost, of a replacement hydrotherapy centre and ongoing funding for operating expenses.'
Cr Tiley recommended that an expert be engaged either directly by the government or by council with government funding to undertake a specific study to assess the need for a hydrotherapy centre and the options to build and run one.
A recommendation he said was the advice he had received from Armidale Regional Council financial controller John Rayner.
In his report Cr Tiley wrote that for at last 18 months the elected council had recognised the urgent need to secure a hydrotherapy centre to replace the dilapidated former facility at the Armidale Hospital.
"A committee of five councillors was formed over a year ago to investigate options," he said.
"On 25 November 2020 the Interim Administrator, Viv May, determined that council take no further action in relation to the Hydrotherapy Centre project and make representations to the local federal and state members and funding authorities to negotiate the possible re-allocation of grants from the Hydrotherapy Centre to the Guyra Long Day Care Centre Project and other projects."
At the time Mr May said a peer review undertaken on the proposed development of the New England Regional Hydrotherapy Centre had exposed a "considerable risk to Armidale Regional Council's reputation and its financial capacity to construct and operate the proposed centre".
At Wednesday's meeting ARC business manager Scot MacDonald said the federal government had advised those funds were unable to be redirected and were awaiting councils 'next step'.
"The whole purpose of this report is to get the project back up on the table," Cr Tiley said.
"Confronted with that it is really important that we undertake the study."
Cr Peter Bailey said Armidale Regional Council would incur irreparable reputational damage if they handed back grants.
Earlier in the year a council decision was made to 'proceed to open tender for design, build and operate' the New England Hydrotherapy Pool Centre.
Following the closure of the Armidale Hospital Hydrotherapy Pool council explored a number of options to provide a hydrotherapy centre and successfully secured NSW Stronger Country Communities funding of $1.46 million and $2.3 million from the Federal Government's Building Better Region Fund.
John Rayner, who was acting general manager at the time, said the peer review exposed considerable financial risk to council if the hydrotherapy project was allowed to continue.
"As beneficial as this project would be to the community to have access to a modern hydrotherapy pool centre, unfortunately at this time the financial risk is just too great," Mr Rayner said following the decision last November.
"Moving forward with this development would be contrary to the Local Government Minister's announcement of a proposed Performance Improvement Order placed on the Council when the governing body returns."
In his minute Cllr Tiley said given the Minister's Performance Improvement Order and the council's answerability to Mr Rayner as financial controller, council must accept part a of the 25 November resolution.
"This minute does not suggest or promote the incurring of council expenditure on a new facility," he said.
"Further exploration is considered warranted for alternate options to secure this vital community facility.
"For example, council may be able to provide in-kind commitment by way of land at say Monckton Pool or elsewhere, with the state government meeting the capital cost and then the government commercially leasing the facility.
"There could be other viable options worth considering which would not involve cost to council."
"There was no suggest the resolution to redistribute the $1.46m from the NSW Stronger Country Communities Funding to the Guyra Long Day Care Centre be rescinded Cr Tiley said.
"I propose that in addition to those representations, the council lobby the state government to meet the full capital and operating costs of a hydrotherapy centre," he said.
"For many years, the state government provided a hydrotherapy facility at the Armidale hospital precinct. It is my firm view that it is and should remain a state responsibility and not that of a local government to provide the hydrotherapy service at its cost.
"To pass the responsibility to Armidale Council with an amount of funding that is less than 40 per cent of the capital cost, and does not in any way reimburse the council for ongoing running costs, is unfortunately another example of continuing cost shifting on to local government."
Cr Tiley said he had brought the matter back to council being aware of his councillor colleagues' concerns for the unfortunate people who presently, if they require hydrotherapy, are forced to travel to Tamworth, a round trip of approximately 220km.
"This inconvenience for them is unfair and unacceptable," he said.
"The purpose of this minute is for council in its leadership and representative role, to continue to explore options and to lobby the state government for the purpose of maintaining efforts to secure a much-needed hydrotherapy centre for the people we serve in the Armidale region."