Vote clears way for arts centre
LISMORE mayor Jenny Dowell used her casting vote twice on Tuesday night to ensure that plans go ahead for the controversial Margaret Olley Arts Centre.
But she denied she had staked her mayoral position on the issue, and said if the majority of the council and the community had opposed the gallery she would not take this as a personal criticism.
In a sometimes heated debate, with heckling from the packed public gallery, Cr Dowell also threatened to use the gavel for the first time in her role as chair.
But when the two motions blocking progress on the gallery were defeated, and after amendments were passed assuring its funding would not affect spending on roads and sewerage, councillors rallied 8-2 behind a bid to seek a $4.5 million Federal Government grant by January 15.
Council will now proceed to commission architects to draw up plans for the proposed new building.
At the heart of the discussion was whether Lismore could afford a gallery of this size at this time, and whether it was something the community wanted.
Cr Graham Meineke said a new gallery could be housed in the vacant municipal council building, and proposed 10 vacant shops in the CBD be used to showcase local artists.
Opposing him, Cr Gianpiero Battista said this was an opportunity to get $4.5 million and provided a ‘visionary look’ at the direction the city wanted to go in.
Cr Neil Marks said of the 264 ratepayers and residents who responded to a newspaper questionnaire he placed in The Northern Star, the overwhelming majority was opposed to gallery.
Cr Isaac Smith said a gallery was ‘vital to the future’ of Lismore and cited the city’s motto: “He who does not progress, regresses.” Becoming increasingly impassioned, Cr Smith said he did not want to see the city regress.
Cr David Yarnall said theissue was not about whether Lismore needed a gallery or not: “It’s a matter of timing. We can’t afford it.
“Where will the $420,000 needed to run the gallery come from?” he asked.
Cr Simon Clough said what mattered was the opportunity, which was a ‘oncer’.
Southern Cross University had pledged to contribute $1 million towards the gallery, but was unlikely to keep the offer open if there was a delay, he said.