Council to retain MELC

THE former Moe Early Learning Centre will be retained as a community asset after a majority of councillors at Monday’s Latrobe City Council meeting voted in favour of rescinding a motion to sell it to Latrobe Community Health Services.

West Ward councillor Peter Gibbons brought back the issue of the proposed sale of the former MELC in Fowler Street into the open meeting, despite concerns expressed about its contractual nature.

“It is a matter of public interest,” Cr Gibbons said during the council meeting.

Cr Sharon Gibson, in support of the motion, said the matter had first been brought before open council and the public deserved the right to see the issue through.

In an alternate motion, Cr Gibbons proposed council retain ownership of the property for community use, and said the valuation of $155,000 was unacceptably low.

He also urged council to approach State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood to access funding to refurbish the building, which could then be used as a community meeting and storage area for the area’s various service organisations, similar to the Kath Teychenne Community Centre in Traralgon.

“The Moe Lions Club are looking for a place to store their trailer and barbecue facilities, and Moe Probus have said it has been difficult to find a meeting place; I have heard of at least another six organisations which would be happy to share the facility,” Cr Gibbons said.

He added any potential tenants or users of the proposed Moe community centre “would have to pay their way” and costs would be reasonable.

“I would like to see the property retained, so we can see a community centre in Moe for the first time,” he said.

In expressing his reservations about reversing council’s decision to sell the property to LCHS, Cr Graeme Middlemiss said its expansion would provide the “best outcome” for the Moe community.

“I am in favour of the proposal to sell; if we rescind the motion on 4 June to sell by private treaty, it puts our reputation at risk,” Cr Middlemiss said.

“We have moved too far; LCHS has been negotiating in good faith.”

Acknowledging LCHS’ service to the community, Cr Gibson said she had clarified not obtaining the Fowler Street property would not halt LCHS’ expansion.

“We do not believe this (decision) will jeopardise our relationship with LCHS, (but selling the former MELC site) would put a wedge between us and the community,” Cr Gibson said.

Latrobe City Council chief executive Paul Buckley clarified no official agreement had been entered into with LCHS.

The issue of refurbishing the property was discussed between council and parliamentarians on Tuesday, with Cr Gibbons telling The Express it was a possibility the State Government would provide some funding assistance, the amount of which would be subject to negotiations.

“The people of Moe will have a community asset that will be very important in the long-term,” he said.