BATHURST Regional Council should rightly push back against the proposal for it to pay full market value if it wishes to take over the old ambulance station site on William Street.
What we’re seeing here is another shameless example of the state government trying to offload a loss-making asset onto council.
We’ve seen it before with the old TAFE building, an acquisitions that will cost council millions before it can ever serve a purpose, and now we’re seeing it again.
What makes it worse this time, however, is the fact the people of Bathurst have already paid once for this building.
A foundation stone laid at the station during construction in 1928 says it is a “tribute to those residents of the city and district whose generosity made possible the erection of this building”.
So the state government is effectively trying to sell us something we already home.
The big question, though, is does council really want the site? Certainly if it is to classified for community use only then council won’t be interested – and nor should it be.
Community use only would mean there was no chance of council ever recouping the money needed to upgrade the building and so it would quickly become an unwelcome drain on council resources.
If council decides the region does require more community space for local groups, it would be far more cost-effective for it to construct a new building from scratch.
Of course, community use only would also mean the government could not find a commercial buyer for the ambulance station and no community group could ever hope to afford the expected market value of more than $1 million to buy it for themselves.
That means the only options for the government are to relax the conditions on the proposed handover to council – which would mean off-loading the site for nothing – or opening it up to the commercial sector and allowing them to use the building for whatever purpose they wish.
Council needs to tread carefully here.
While it would be nice to have such a significant landmark building in public ownership, particularly since the people of Bathurst already own the TAFE building, no-one would benefit from having the site sit empty for a few more years while council works out what to do with it.
Most importantly, though, council must not be pushed around by the state government. At least they appear to be moving in the right direction on that issue.