ADVERTISED with only one day's notice, it's hardly surprising that there were no members of the public in attendance at the council's monthly workshop last Thursday night, the eve of the Easter long weekend. I was disappointed to see that the round-table setup had been abandoned and a separate row of chairs had been provided for the public, away from the table.
Willow Court was the first topic discussed and it dominated the evening. The general manager advised that he had just received a new
draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Willow Court from David Llewellyn, who had been appointed to chair the yet-to-be-established Willow Court Conservation and Development Special Committee. He had also received a deed of variation for the long since lapsed State Government grant for Willow Court. Mr Mackey said the variation would allow the $750,000 grant to be used on various buildings at Willow Court. He understood that the government had accepted the amended MOU and noted that it did not provide staff for the site.
Mr Mackey said Mr Llewellyn would advise the council on appointments to the new committee but finding volunteers may be a challenge because the positions are unpaid. Cr Judy Bromfield said she hoped the MOU would be ready to be signed at an open day at Willow Court on May 6.
Cr Lester asked whether there was any offer on the table about the funding of a project manager for Willow Court. Mr Mackey said it was necessary to firstly establish the new committee so it could review the MacDonald report, prepare a program of works and then get a project manager on board. Mr Mackey said he was not talking about having a project manager on site all the time. Cr Lester asked whether it might be possible to work with the Southern Midlands Council, which has a heritage officer. Mr Mackey said there had been a conversation and it had some merit.
At this point I expressed some concerns about what had been said so far. I asked whether the full amount of the $750,000 State Government grant still remained and the general manager responded that it was now closer to $580,000. It seemed to me that the council's approach to Willow Court had been turned on its head and this would result in more delays. Having initially rejected the government's offer because it did not provide a project officer for Willow Court, this principle now seemed to have been abandoned. The council decided last year that the new committee should be established without delay, but others decided not to start the committee until the MOU was negotiated and a project officer appointed. Now the general manager was proposing that the committee be established and that it would review the MacDonald report and prepare a program of works, and then there would be negotiations for the provision of a project officer.
In response to questions from myself and Cr Scott Shaw, the mayor advised that the State Government would in fact pay for a project officer even though it was not specified in the MOU and it was possible there may be short-term managers responsible for specific tasks rather than one for the whole project.
While I am not happy with this latest change in approach, too much time has been wasted by the council in the negotiating of an agreement with the government. We have tasked David Llewellyn to lead the conservation and development of Willow Court and I believe he will do his best. This was echoed by Cr Bromfield who observed that the MOU did not say all she would have liked it to say but Mr Llewellyn would do everything he could.
Cr Lester asked how much money was left in the Willow Court reserve account other than the $580,000 grant money and the general manager responded "that's it." Cr Lester then asked whether anyone had spoken to Heritage Tasmania about demolishing G Ward (Glenora House) at Willow Court, with a view to making the site more attractive for development. Mr Mackey said he had spoken to Pete Smith at Heritage Tasmania and he would not be averse to receiving such an application, although "we would never get one through in relation to the two-storey buildings".
Mr Mackey said he would prepare a report on the MOU and deed of variation for the next council meeting.
Still on the subject of Willow Court, Cr Shaw asked why the barracks building couldn't have a fence like that around Frescati. Mr Mackey said his preference was to have a fixed fence rather than to continue to hire a temporary fence. Cr Lester said the owner of the administration building had a proposed an aesthetically pleasing fence and lighting project and I asked when the council would meet private property owners to discuss fencing at Willow Court as had been decided in January.
Moving on, Mr Mackey said he had been speaking to Paul Lennon who was negotiating on behalf of another property owner at Willow Court to resolve access issues affecting the Lions Club and Masonic Lodge.