Community to keep Ballina site
By GRAHAM BROADHEAD firstname.lastname@example.org DEPUTY Ballina Mayor David Wright has quashed claims the council wants to put a commercial venture on a site tagged for a community centre.
A combined community art gallery and multi-purpose community centre had been planned for the Treelands Reserve site.
However, that project was thrown into doubt by cost blow-outs even after the mayor and other councillors presided over a turning of the sod ceremony for the gallery at the park on the corner of Bangalow Road and Moon Street in 2005.
But that is the only piece of dirt turned at the site, which currently has on it a public toilet, a picnic shelter and a swing set.
The gallery ended up in the renovated old council chambers in Cherry Street, and was opened late last year.
Now, the Ballina community centre project is in doubt again with another blow-out in construction costs for the centre, which was identified as a community need in a report prepared by consultant Doug Stinson in 1999.
With Treelands Reserve in a prime position next door to the Ballina Central shopping centre and near the intersection, which is used by Pacific Highway traffic heading to and from popular Lennox Head and Byron Bay, and the consecutive budget blow-outs, there is talk the council may have its eyes on a more commercial use for the site.
But Ballina's Deputy Mayor, Cr David Wright, said the council had never talked about a commercial venture for the community-owned parkland.
"It will always be for the community," he said. He said the budget blow-outs had been to do with the add-on works for the development that the council would ask any private developer to do, and changes to original plans.
He said it was a matter of wait and see what expressions of interest there were from groups wanting to move into the planned community centre to see if it would go ahead in its planned form, in a modified form or not at all.
He said the building could end up being a combination of a centre for community service delivery along with a more expanded function like an indoor sports stadium or civic centre.
Executive officer of the Ballina District Community Services Association (BDCSA), Dianna Howell, is still hopeful the council will agree to go ahead with the community centre at an extraordinary meeting to be held on March 12.
She said the community was 'desperate' to have the centre. The BDCSA has wanted to move its various community services "which include day care for frail aged and disabled people, and, in total, has a clientele of several hundred people in Ballina into one centre for several years.
She said the services the organisation provided are being restricted because of restrictions in delivery. BDCSA operates from five premises.