Hall policy on exhibition

By Robert Muir

Use of Federation Council halls and facilities will be free of charge to town improvement committees including Section 355 committees under council’s new draft policy on public display for 28 days.

With issues regarding implementation of its current hall and facilities hire policy, council has developed a new, streamlined policy unanimously supported by councillors at their monthly live video conference on June 23.

“Coming into the development of the 2020/2021 budget and its associated fees and charges list, there was considered a need to review the policy and council’s practices in this area,” Federation Council’s director corporate and community services Jo Shannon said.

“Over the last few years, the issue of booking council-owned and managed facilities has become complicated and difficult to administer. With over 25 facilities available for hire, and an ever-increasing request to take on more bookings such as Bay 13 at Mulwala’s Lonsdale Reserve, this is becoming a much larger management issue for council.” 

The introduction of the free or discounted use of council facilities was implemented to make facility hire more affordable for community groups but the process has proved cumbersome, time consuming and at times confusing process. 

“Each hall has a different set of fees and in some cases, such as the Corowa Memorial Hall, there are as many of five separate fees depending on the use of the hall or the individual room/s being hired. This has resulted in more than 30 separate hire fees across all facilities,” Ms Shannon said.

“A new draft policy, which significantly alters the way council manages this process, and results in savings to council based on the reduced time taken to process requests has been developed.

“The new policy removes the need for a free or discounted use budget and the process to support it.”

After reading Ms Shannon’s lengthy report to council, Cr Bronwyn Thomas sought and obtained confirmation about the free use of council’s halls and other facilities.

“These Section 355 committees and town improvement committees like Mulwala Progress Association are the backbone to our volunteer organisations – they take on so many projects,” she said. “This change in policy is fabulous moving forward.”   

A move to a simpler fee structure, which is primarily based on the size of the space hired, identifies nine separate fees for facility use. This is a reduction of individual fees by over 60 percent. 

This approach also removes the need for management approval unless the request for assistance sat outside the policy. Where this is the case, the GM would be required to approve any assistance provided. Whilst not strictly part of the Policy, a review of the fees and charges has been undertaken in connection to this policy change.

Proposed changes are essential full corporate rates, which are used as a benchmark for any discount offered to community groups. 

The proposed fees are: Large Hall Hire (Corowa Memorial Hall & Soldiers Memorial Hall Urana) · Daily Hire $ 475.00 · Weekly Hire $ 2080.00 · Use of Kitchen (charged in addition to hall hire) $ 200.00 Small- Medium Hall Hire (All Other Halls ) · Daily Hire $ 200.00 · Weekly Hire $ 650.00 Hall Bonds and Cleaning · General Bond $ 500.00 · Licenced Bond (Alcohol used) $ 1000.00 · Cleaning – By Quotation Meeting Rooms (Corowa Civic Centre, Howlong Resource Centre) · Per hour hire $ 40.00 · Daily hire $ 150.00. 

The proposed fee structure automatically applies a discount based on the proposed use of the hall. This removes the need for a discounted use of facilities arrangement and still allows council to support community groups by offering a discount to support services and activities with broad community benefit. 

“The approach offers a subsidy of between 50 and 100 percent of the usual fee depending on the use and/or group wanting to hire the facility,” Ms Shannon said.

“It also places weekly time limits on the facility to ensure there is equity of access and a facility cannot be monopolised by any single user group.”