Future of Allora senior citizens building discussed

The future of the Allora Senior Citizens, library, sports museum, and fire station buildings were discussed at a recent SDRC information session.

By Dominique Tassell

The future of the Allora Senior Citizens, library, sports museum, and fire station buildings were discussed at a recent Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) information session, with councillors deciding they needed more information before a decision could be made.

The building previously occupied by Allora Senior Citizens has been unoccupied since 2020.

The land is owned by SDRC under a trust which states that the land must be used for the purpose of supporting locals aged over 50 in the community.

Three options were outlined to the councillors, the first being that SDRC asks the Attorney-General to amend the purpose of the trust.

Staff stated this option would cost approximately $1000-$2000 dollars, as SDRC would have to employ a lawyer to write the letter to the Attorney-General.

The second option is to apply to the Court to amend the charitable trust purpose.

Staff stated this option would cost approximately $20,000, excluding legal fees, but had a higher chance of being successful than option one.

The third option is to sell the premises. The premises would then be unencumbered by the trust but SDRC would need to put any profits towards the purpose of supporting locals aged over 50 in the community.

Staff stated the costs of this option are unknown and would have to be investigated.

Cr Ross Bartley asked in the meeting if any of the trust members were still alive.

Staff clarified that the Council made the trust, which Cr Bartley responded may make things easier.

Chief Executive Dave Burges asked if the building needed work regardless of the option they decided on.

Staff stated this was correct.

Cr Jo McNally asked if they could lease out the building until such a time as the Senior Citizens want to operate out of the building again.

Cr Cynthia McDonald asked for the former usage rates and stated that the requirements of the trust could be fulfilled in other ways.

Cr Stephen Tancred asked whether they could sell the building to the community and lease it back to use as the library.

Staff stated they would still have to put any profits from the sale towards supporting locals aged over 50.

Cr Sheryl Windle stated they “have to do something” as the community wants the space utilised.

After the meeting, Mayor Pennisi stated that “if the attorney general can change it that’s a simple way”.

When asked about the other suggestions, such as requiring the library to have a senior’s room or club, Mayor Pennisi said “the easiest option is if the Attorney-General changes that condition to give us more flexibility.”

“That’s the easiest option.”

He stated that “there is a strong push from the community (that) they want to have it as a library. The community wants it as a library. And to have it as a library, that condition needs to be changed.”

Regarding other clubs occupying the space, Mayor Pennisi said that “at the end of the day, that’s got to come from the community”.

“We don’t form Senior Citizens clubs, that’s not what Council does,” he said. “But a group of people from the community could come to Council and say ‘we want to do this and it’d be great if we had access to this building’ at which point in time you would give them access if the building was available because empty buildings deteriorate more than having someone in them.”

“But that’s got to come from the community.”

Mayor Pennisi said the library’s future needs to be addressed regardless of the outcome, given the current accessibility issues.

“We have to address the library in some way,” he said.

“The push has come from the community and the seniors are not interested at this point in time.”

Perry Cronin from the Allora Sports Museum confirmed that they would like to expand into the current library building once the library has moved.

He stated that the library moving into the old Senior Citizens building, and the sports museum expanding, would be ideal for everyone involved.

This would give the library a bigger area with more facilities, he said.

Perry said the situation doesn’t seem as complicated to him as SDRC is making it out to be.

He said that given the community has called for the library to relocate into the old Senior Citizens building and SDRC manage the trust, it should be easier.

The Senior Citizens vacated the premises in 2020 and have relocated to another building in town for their meetings.

Perry said all SDRC has to do is call out to anyone opposed to the library moving locations, and look into any responses.

Leaving the building empty helps no one, he said.

“How can you progress if the wheels aren’t turning?”