No right to renege on hall, board told

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A Cromwell woman who has “had enough” of delays to the Cromwell Memorial Hall upgrade has launched a petition demanding the project go ahead.

The petition, launched by Odette Hopgood-Bride this week, asks for the Cromwell Community Board (CCB) to proceed with the resolution it passed last year approving a detailed design for the hall upgrade.

She says the constant delays to the project have left Cromwell residents frustrated and without a central, community facility.

“It’s a little bit sad to be a community without a community hall.”

Plans for the upgrade, now estimated to cost $5.4million, were stalled in December when the CCB failed to accept tenders for the project.

CCB chairman Neil Gillespie said the decision reflected “the concerns of some board members about the design, scope and cost of the project”.

The issue was discussed and voted on in closed session because of commercial information about the tenders, but Mr Gillespie said it was public information that a motion to endorse the hall project in its current scope, award no tender and apply to existing funding bodies at the same funding levels plus 4% escalation was lost 4-2.

The motion was put by CCB member Nigel McKinlay and seconded by Mr Gillespie and they both confirmed they had voted for the motion.

The News contacted the other five community board members to confirm how they voted.

Robin Dicey said he voted against it, Werner Murray would not confirm which way he voted but said it could be worked out by looking at the figures, Anna Harrison said she was not present when the voting took place, and Shirley Calvert and Annabel Blaikie did not respond to a message left by The News

Mrs Hopgood-Bride said she was angry successive new community boards kept overturning decisions made by previous ones, and questioned their right to change things the community wanted and had approved.

“In my opinion, they [the CCB] had no right to continue discussing the whys and wherefores or the next move of the memorial hall. All they had to do was discuss the tenders. They didn’t need to endorse the original resolution.”

Former long-serving CCB member Helen Hucklebridge said it was frustrating that as new CCB members voted against the upgrade, the cost of the project kept rising. In 2014 it was estimated at $2.6million, and in 2015 $3million.

The upgrade would be funded half by land sales, and the other half from community funders, so it would not impact on rates, Mrs Hucklebridge said.

She said the condition of the hall was deteriorating and the upgrade needed to happen soon.

job and a lick of paint” was not feasible, “as once anything apart from the most basic building alteration was considered, a building permit would be required and that would have opened up a real can of worms”.

Some people said the decreasing usage of the hall made the need for an upgrade questionable, but it was “no wonder” usage was down, as regular users had been advised for the past three years to find other facilities because of the proposed upgrade, Mrs Hucklebridge said. They were finding this frustrating, and there were many community groups desperate for the upgrade to go ahead, she said.

Mrs Hopgood-Bride said it was also important to remember the 50-year-old hall was an official war memorial, and the community needed to respect and preserve it.

Mr Gillespie said he did not want to comment on how individual CCB members had voted but said the result was “democracy”.

He encouraged people to let their CCB members know what they wanted to happen to the hall, and to attend the next CCB meeting in Cromwell at 2pm on February 10, when another report about the hall would be presented.