At last year’s Annual General Meeting I reported on accommodation. Security of tenure at the Centre had been an issue over a number of years. We had met with Benalla Council on a regular basis over the years to seek secure accommodation.
Benalla College stepped in when The Centre pulled out in March 2015. Benalla College secured our short term future and classes were able to continue without interruption, I wish to thank them for their support at a time of crisis for U3A.
We now have a lease on W4 with Wodonga College’s Flexible Learning Team. Problems arise in the school holiday periods when access becomes a problem, especially for scooter and wheel chair users. Access to the room, other than advertised class time is also a problem. The possibility that all our members would have to hold a current police check is something we have so far avoided, for these reasons we continue to seek our own base.
In January we re-opened negotiations with Tony McIlroy the Chief Executive Officer for Benalla Council. Tony presented to us new plans which had been presented to Council for the redevelopment of the ‘seniors’, which would include a new base for U3A. The Council, U3A and the Executive of the Seniors have met on three occasions this year and developed a good working relationship, however the Seniors and the Council team are now deadlocked.
We remain determined to find a secure base with wheel chair and scooter access and believe the Senior Citizens is still the only realistic solution.
We need to set the record straight with our members.
- U3A did not seek to remove any of the facilities at the Senior Citizens rooms.
- U3A were invited by the Council team to join discussions with the Seniors’ executive re the shared use of the facility.
- U3A seek to have a room allocated within the seniors which would be a permanent classroom and office for use of U3A members.
- Discussions with the Seniors’ executive have been amicable.
- The first proposal from the Council envisaged stripping the commercial kitchen area and creating a room for our use. U3A would contribute to Council for costs involved, and support Council in applying for Round 2 of Federal Regional Funding.
- In return we would have security of Tenure.
- The Seniors objected as they still use the kitchen facility on occasions.
- The second proposal came from the Seniors’ executive. They offered U3A use of the room where currently the billiard table is stored. We accepted this offer.
- It was proposed that U3A members would use the side door as our entrance/exit so as not to interrupt Seniors’ running of activities in the main hall.
This was approved by all parties.
- At a subsequent meeting in March the Seniors advised that they have withdrawn that offer. They now do not wish the billiard table to be removed from that room. This is an unsatisfactory and impractical outcome for U3A.
- U3A partnered Council to seek extra Federal funds which were provisionally approved in early March. Those funds would have allowed more money to be spent on refurbishing the Seniors rooms. If U3A are forced to pull out the funding would no longer be available as it is only available on the basis of a partnership for a shared facility.
We do not seek confrontation and do not want to take over the Seniors, but see shared occupancy as a way forward for both groups.
I remain optimistic we can amicably share the facility.