War of words over $2 million Lismore Lake Pool ‘offer’
AFTER denying that Page MP Kevin Hogan made a $2 million offer to Lismore City Council to save the Lismore Lake Pool last year, the council's general manager Shelley Oldham has changed her tune.
Last week Mr Hogan's revelations squarely placed him in dispute with Ms Oldham who has always maintained to staff, councillors and the media that no such offer was ever made.
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On Thursday Mr Hogan said the funding offer was made, despite the council having made no request.
"There was no request from Lismore City Council for the funding of Lismore Lake Pool," Mr Hogan said.
"I informally approached council that I could get $2 million for the project during the 2019 election campaign.
"Council said they were not interested as they were looking at selling the land."
On Friday Ms Oldham told The Northern Star that a member of Mr Hogan's staff had mentioned the possibility of funding for the project in passing, "at an airport but this did not constitute a formal offer."
She later emailed a statement which said: "We follow a strict process of analysis, evaluation, and consultation prior to any submissions being made to Local Members to ensure any funding accepted does not impact on future budget maintenance and our resourcing strategy.
"Preliminary conversations are conducted regularly, and before proceeding with any submissions to State and Federal members the Corporate Planning processes are followed to ensure appropriate levels of probity, transparency and alignment with councils direction."
This is in contrast to Ms Oldham's previous comments as she has until now maintained the council did not receive an offer of funding from Mr Hogan.
Last year Ms Oldham categorically denied the offer to The Northern Star as well as at council meetings and in council briefings.
Back in May 2019 The Northern Star sighted a leaked draft media release bearing Mr Hogan's letterhead and dated Wednesday, May 8, 2019, which announced three items for funding, including "$2 million for the restoration of the Lismore Lake Pool which has strong community support".
"Work will include restoring the pool's surface and construction of secure fencing and supervisory staff amenities," the media release said.
Mr Hogan declined to comment on why the council made that decision or how the draft of the media release, which also included funding for the Hannah Cabinet and Lismore airport, was leaked.
In 2019 a council spokesman denied federal funding for the once-popular pool, which closed in 2011 after 40 years of operation due to the facilities needing urgent repairs and updates, had been sought by the organisation.
"Lismore City Council never applied for a grant from the Federal Government in the past five years for Lismore Lake Pool," he said.
When contacted, most councillors said they did not know of the funding offer.
Cr Bill Moorhouse said an issue of councillors not being informed when funding is offered is an important matter.
"If this correct why weren't we advised?" Cr Moorhouse said.
"If these rumours are true, then it's a major issue for council."
When asked Cr Neil Marks said: "no comment."
Cr Gianpiero Battista said the Lismore Lake Pool had always "been a contentious issue."
"If the government was coming forward with a $2 million offer on the table, we should have been informed," he said.
"We all should have known, discussed it and made a decision and for the general manager to not tell us is a disgrace."
Mayor Isaac Smith declined to comment.