Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Deal done for $1.3 million

Benalla Rural City has paid more than initially expected for the former post office building in Bridge St.

ANGELA TOWNSEND February 20, 2013 4:58am

An artist impression of the former post office building as council offices.Benalla Ensign on 12/09/2012 CAPTION: An artist impression of the former post office building as council offices.

Despite claims by Benalla Rural City that council took possession of the former post office building on the corner of Bridge and Mair Sts on September 6 last year, the Ensign understands council only received confirmation that the purchase price of $1.3million was accepted by Australia Post earlier this month.

Council’s Civic Precinct Revitalisation project aims to convert the existing Civic Centre into a library/learning centre, while the former post office building on the corner of Bridge and Mair Sts will be refurbished. The heritage-protected former shire offices in Mair St will become home to council, with the run-down council chamber being extensively renovated.

Former councillor Don Firth spoke to the Ensign last week and continues to express concern over the unclear cost of the library/civic centre project (see page 3 for a cost breakdown).

He said the $450000 Victorian Government funds received in October 2009 for the State Living Library Funding grant was given to Benalla on the proviso the new library would be a minimum of 900m2 for a community the size of Benalla.

‘‘I said we could deliver to the people of Benalla a brand new library at a fraction of the cost,’’ he said.

‘‘I said to the councillors, ‘Let’s give it back to them and we will save a huge amount of money’.’’

He, along with a local property developer, submitted separate alternative library proposals to council in June 2011. Neither was considered.

Mr Firth said the vacant State Electricity Commission (SEC) building in Bridge St was offered with a host of possibilities, from leasing the bottom floor for a library of approximately 700m2, to council leasing all three floors for its offices, in addition to a library.

The former councillor also expressed his disappointment over the fact councillors had endorsed the former post office building despite not having been inside. He said he raised the issue with the chief executive officer and councillors subsequently toured the building in early 2012, having already adopted a motion to purchase the property.

Mr Firth said the $1.2million Federal Government grant received for the project last year came with the proviso that it be used within two years, with no extensions.

To read more see today's Benalla Ensign.

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