Chamber owes $47,000 to council
NIMBIN Chamber of Commerce president Peter Wise was shocked when he received a letter stating the village's chamber owed the Lismore City Council $47,000 in interest payments.
After seven years the chamber thought it had eventually paid off a $70,000 council loan for the installation of CCTV cameras in the village, only to discover the council had charged it interest on the money without informing the business group.
“It was only by chance we found out they had charged us interest, because we thought the loan was almost paid off and we could earmark some money to improve the street murals,” Mr Wise said.
When a special levy was struck on Nimbin businesses in 2003 raising about $10,000 annually, it was agreed at a community meeting that for the first seven years $8000 of that amount would be used to repay the CCTV loan.
The remaining $2000 was to be used for the village's economic development.
However, the chamber discovered this year that not only did it owe interest charges and that the life of the loan had been extended by two years, but that the $2000 for economic development was spent by the council on the Nimbin Visitor Information Centre.
However, what infuriated the chamber even more was that this amount had risen to about $4000 as the special levy was indexed.
“Our hands are tied. We have no money to do any economic development,” Helena Wise, owner of Nimbin Pizza and Trattoria, said.
Yesterday, the council's finance manager, Rino Santin, was coy on the issue.
He said while there was no ‘conclusive' proof it had informed the chamber about the interest charge, it ‘can be assumed' by examining the figures that a ‘fee or interest would be applied'.
Mr Santin went on to say the council decided to fund the tourist centre because, in its opinion, ‘there is a very strong linkage between economic development and tourism in Nimbin'.
He did not answer why the business community was not consulted.
At a council meeting on Tuesday night, it was decided to only give the information centre $2000 annually, with the remainder of the indexed money directed to other projects.
The chamber must still pay the interest bill.
Cr Simon Clough said yesterday the council did not complete the consultation process with the community.
“They didn't go back and tell them what they were proposing and now they have been left hanging,” he said.