TOP LEFT CORNER: Senior Citizens Association president Norma Drury. TOP RIGHT CORNER: Sylvia Smith.
TOP LEFT CORNER: Senior Citizens Association president Norma Drury. TOP RIGHT CORNER: Sylvia Smith.

5O cent braw over Ballina's Wigmore Hall

By DAWN COHEN

A LEGAL battle has erupted between a pensioner choir and the Ballina Senior Citizens Association over the grand sum of 50 cents. For the past 10 years, the Sylvia Smith Singers have rehearsed at Ballina Senior Citizens' Wigmore Hall facilities. The usual fee for usage is $1 per person, but the choir negotiated the fee at 50 cents. In June, the senior citizens issued the singers with a demand for a $5 per annum association membership fee and the full usage fee of $1. But choir mistress Sylvia Smith refused. Instead, she engaged solicitor David Johnston to notify Ballina Shire Council that while the choir would relent on the usage fee, choir members did not want to be 'dragooned' into joining the Senior Citizens Association. Now lawyers for both sides are exchanging letters with each other, and with the council, over the membership issue ? a matter on the agenda for last Thursday's council meeting. "Some of our singers are over 80, and if the community wants us to continue we must get younger members. You have to be over 50 to join the Senior Citizens," Ms Smith said. However, the association denies it is being discriminatory in its management of the council-owned hall. "I can't join the Girl Guides and they are trustees for council property too," said Senior Citizens Association president Norma Drury. "I couldn't join the boy scouts either. It's not discrimination, it's appropriate. "Older people need their own association, just like younger people do. "Our volunteers maintain the space. We spent $40,000 on facilities that are specifically for senior citizens." Nine organisations use the facilities, and eight are happy with the arrangements, according to Senior Citizens Association vice-president Cath Butler, who is a member of a bootscooting club that kick up their heels in Wigmore Hall. "We spend $140 tuning the piano for the choir, but we don't worry about that. "This is a storm in a teacup, and it's got out of hand," she said. Why don't the Sylvia Singers find another hall? "We are sad to leave after 10 years," Ms Smith said. "It's nice and clean and the fans are good. If they say we have to go, there will be no hard feelings. "Part of the problem was when Charlie died. He was a member of both organisations, and he was our go-between." The matter has been deferred to the next council meeting. n What do you think? Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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