Members of a seniors education group had some burning questions for council candidates this week.
Do they support selling off their current home at the former Bourke Street council depot and do they back its development for a permanent community centre?
University of the Third Age members posed the questions to Goulburn Mulwaree Council candidates at a forum on Wednesday night.
Nine nominees for the December 4 election attended the Tattersalls Hotel event. They were: Bob Kirk, Peter Walker, Dan Strickland, Leah Ferrara, Andrew Banfield, Anna Wurth-Crawford, Danielle Marsden-Ballard, Margaret O'Neill and Jason Shepherd. Others were were either unable to attend due to work commitments or did not know about the event.
U3A president, Brian Spilsbury junior, said the group wanted to stay in the spacious Bourke Street premises, where it ran some 45 classes weekly. It has been their home since about mid-2018, despite several council attempts to sell the building.
This year NSW Police approached the council to buy the facility to develop a new station. However it subsequently withdrew when the parties couldn't reach terms. The station will instead be built at the NSW Police Academy.
But uncertainty over community groups' tenure remains, with the new council to ponder options for the old Bourke Street depot next year. The Gem Society and Goulburn and District Arts Society are among its tenants.
"We're very happy at Bourke Street and want to stay there," Mr Spilsbury said.
"There is no doubt in our mind that it should be developed into a community centre."
But such was future uncertainty that after three years, U3A still couldn't change the signs to advertise their presence, he told the forum.
Leah Ferrara, standing for her second term, said her job was to represent the community. If groups wanted to stay, she would support them to do so.
"I've seen the preliminary plans for a community centre at Bourke Street and I'll push for it to go ahead if elected in the next term," she said.
Labor ticket member Ms Wurth-Crawford echoed this view and told the 50 plus crowd she was impressed by U3A's range of courses.
Her co-runner, Goulburn Labor branch president Jason Shepherd said if a better location arose, he would consider it but only if the groups wanted this.
Dan Strickland told U3A it would be "selfish" to come on to council with preconceived views and he was prepared to represent the groups' wishes.
Meantime, Deputy Mayor Peter Walker said he'd previously championed the building's retention.
"I've made the comment that we shouldn't be selling off the farm," he told the crowd.
"It's a great community centre to combine everything. It has lots of parking and is ideal."
He argued the amount the council currently paid to lease the Auburn Street community centre building in Auburn ($140,000 per annum) would more than service a loan for a redeveloped premises in Bourke Street, uniting all groups.
Simon Croker had designed preliminary plans for the latter but Cr Walker said these needed to be developed further. However other regional areas like Albury had built "sensational" premises for their community groups.
Cr Margaret O'Neill was blunt.
"If they (the groups) want to stay in Bourke Street, let them. Forget all the other crap," she said of proposals to sell the building.
Cr Andrew Banfield said he was currently "sold on" Bourke Street being the best location but was prepared to consider alternatives.
"I have a place in mind that could be better," he said.
"I won't be making any promises because it is also about the funding package. A community centre is a high priority but we need to have the cash."
Mayor Bob Kirk was also open to better options if they presented but told the forum that Bourke Street was "a great home" for all the groups.
Under questioning from former police officer and current Goulburn and District Arts Society member, Alan Whitton, all candidates pledged, if elected, to commit funds from any future building sale to a community centre.
Attendees at the hour-long session took the opportunity to quiz candidates on their views about the proposed Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail, heritage protection, especially in light of the recent Kenmore Hospital fire, support for towns and villages and a council response to climate change.
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