Blue Mountains City Council has stood firm against calls for it to backflip on its decision to lend Springwood Country Club $200,000 for a new roof and other updates.
A rescission motion brought to council on Tuesday night (January 29) by Liberal councillors, Kevin Schreiber and Brendan Christie and Greens councillor Kerry Brown, was defeated by a vote of 9-3.
The club and course is owned by council and leased by the country club at a reduced rate (the same rate as all other not-for-profit buildings that council owns). In return, the community club is supposed to maintain the course and buildings. A replacement roof will cost $75,000, the pump to the sewer system is $58,000 and solar installation completes the $200,000 upgrade.
The meeting heard the club will need to pay an additional $10,000 in fees to council to cover the 20 year loan.
Independent Cr Shae Foenander called the motion “mean spirited” citing the vital support the club had given to the community after the 2013 bushfires.
“In the 2013 bushfires, this club opened its doors and became a refuge to those who couldn’t return to their homes,” she said.
“This club housed and fed hundreds and not once put their hand out for money. So I was shocked that Cr Brown, Cr Schreiber and Cr Christie put up a rescission motion which in essence, revoked council support to fix the roof that we actually own,” Cr Foenander said.
Cr Mick Fell said the club “has always been there for the community – we can now assist it to continue to play a vital role into the future”.
“In times of community need, especially during and after bushfires, the club has been a valuable resource in facilitating an immediate response to fight the fires, a place of refuge for those at risk or made homeless and a venue for recovery operations, fundraising and the like,” he said.
But Cr Schreiber said he had concerns about spending ratepayers’ money and also about the club’s “balance sheets”, including club raffles in 2018 that had “made $36,000, but had expenses of $53,000”.
“Why didn’t they go to a bank? ...They have come to the bank of Blue Mountains, Blue Mountains City Council.”
Cr Kerry Brown questioned whether council should be supporting private ventures “reliant on pokies and that’s what we are subsidising”. “It is a licensed premises, it’s not a core community group”.
But other councillors, including Mayor Mark Greenhill, said there were dire consequences if the club “went belly up”. The building and the course would cost more to maintain than the loan. Councillors were reminded of ongoing costs associated with courses that had shut. Currently council spends $70,000 a year mowing the old Lawson golf course.
“The financial analysis was done, this has been a big waste of time,” the mayor added.
General manager Josh Prowse said he was happy the council had stuck to their decision but disappointed the rescission motion had occurred at all. He defended alleged anomalies in the raffles.
“Raffles are designed as giveaways to bring people to a venue to make money, it's not an income stream.”
Last year the club’s captain and treasurer, Robert Bradley, said a loss of $55,000 last financial year was “not reflective” of the club’s usual results, which in previous years had returned profits of $8000 to $10,000. The club had upgraded facilities to attract more functions and had a meeting room for hire to increase its sources of revenue, he said.
Club president, Claire Murray-Fulton, said she was disappointed some councillors still couldn’t see the importance of supporting the club, but was “thankful the majority of the council recognised what a community asset we are”.
“It delighted me to hear the passion in the voices of Crs Foenander, Myles, Fell, Greenhill and Hollywood when they spoke about the club. It shows they recognise we are not a corporation out to grab ratepayers money. We merely need to borrow some to continue to provide a venue that allows members of the community to gather for sporting and social reasons.”
Ms Murray-Fulton said the club was expanding beyond golf, with darts, squash and fishing clubs now involved and social membership up 64 per cent in the last 18 months.
- with Jennie Curtin