HARD TIMES: Scrapping the Ballina community services project means programs such as the Disability Access Program will struggle
HARD TIMES: Scrapping the Ballina community services project means programs such as the Disability Access Program will struggle

Disability disappointment

By MARY MANN

YOU could hear the sheer disappointment in Natalie Halliday's voice yesterday as she spoke of Ballina Shire Council's proposal to scrap its community services centre project.

For the facilitator of Access 127, a disability day-care activities group which could have used the proposed centre, it means the routine of overcrowded sessions and a lack of modern facilities is not likely to let up any time soon.

"The situation is desperate," Ms Halliday said.

"We're going to have to keep turning people away because we just don't have the room."

The Ballina Community Services Centre project has been in the pipeline for the past nine years, and had finally reached the stage where the council had secured government funding, decided on a site and called for tenders for its construction.

But now the council's Facilities Committee has recommended the project be cancelled, citing a budget blow-out and tenancy issues.

The news came as a massive disappointment to those in the community who were relying on it to provide day care for elderly dementia patients and people with disabilities, training rooms for volunteers and office space for community groups.

It has been an especially frustrating journey for Doug Stinson, former president of the Ballina District Community Services Association (BDCSA), which was the preferred tenant for the facility.

Mr Stinson, as an independent consultant, wrote the initial report for the council in 1999, which highlighted the need for better aged services for the growing elderly community in Ballina.

A particular need was to replace the day-care facility for dementia sufferers, Harmony House, which has since been closed because the old building did not meet OH&S standards.

"I'm disappointed in the council, and I think the community should be too," Mr Stinson said.

Lyndal Denny, vice-president of the BDCSA, said it was the community that would be the loser.

"There is a growing number of elderly people in the shire," she said.

"This is a much-needed project, and the community needs answers if it is cancelled."

Ballina mayor Phillip Silver said he wanted to hear from community representatives before a final decision was made.



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