Property sale sparks community anger

A MEMBER of parliament and community groups are “disappointed” over Latrobe City’s proposal to a sell a council-owned property in Moe.

Council will vote tonight at its meeting on whether to sell the ex-Moe Early Learning Centre at 38 Fowler Street, Moe to Latrobe Health Services by private treaty, against community groups’ hopes to maintain the site.

In an email seen by The Express, State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood said he was “disappointed” offers to assist council to identify funding options for the estimated $159,000 upgrade of the facility for community use, had not been acted on.

“I have had no contact from anybody at council to progress this offer,” Mr Blackwood said.

“However, I believe there may be an opportunity to apply for a grant under the Putting Locals First Funding Initiative which is part of the Regional Growth Fund.

“Having read the criteria I’m pretty sure an application from council would meet the criteria.”

Mr Blackwood told The Express he had suggested the motion be held until a meeting with Latrobe Community Health and community groups could be arranged to discuss a “compromise to satisfy both needs”.

“I would have been happy to try and find funding sources which then could have informed the discussion for (tonight’s) meeting,” he said.

“Perhaps they have missed a step but it is not too late.”

During the submissions process three community groups, Moe and District Residents Association, Moe Lions Club and Moe Probus Club supported the retention of the site for community uses.

However, Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley said “potential” funding applications were “premature” and could not be made until council voted on the future of the property.

“What we need to understand is that we haven’t got an offer of funding, we have an offer from the local politician to support an application,” Mr Buckley said.

“I will make sure councillors are made aware of the potential opportunity.”

In tonight’s council meeting, he said an amended report would include the 3 March correspondence between Mr Blackwood and councillors.

“In my view, an integrated health service on the whole precinct would provide a better outcome for the Moe community, via the Latrobe Health Services redevelopment, but that is the decision for council to make Monday night,” Mr Buckley said.

MADRA acting president Peter Gibbons said council’s proposal to sell the site was a “blatant dismissal” of the community’s needs.

“When would be the right time to seek funding to refurbish the building? It certainly can’t happen after council decides to sell the property on Monday night,” Mr Gibbons said.

“They are saying it is premature; I find that unacceptable.

“Once 38 Fowler Street is sold, the community can’t get it back.”