Councillors not all in agreeance on future of the Town Hall

Cobar Shire Councillors last week debated seeking grant funding for the redevelopment of the Town Hall building in Barton Street. Following a 6-1 vote, Councillors endorsed a Master Plan and Business Case for a $3 million restoration project. A no new building footprint was the preferred option as it balances heritage preservation with modern functionality, minimising heritage disruption while accommodating modern needs. While expanding the building’s footprint was considered, maintaining the current size was deemed to be more financially prudent to ensure maintenance affordability and would still provide essential facilities.

Cobar Shire Councillors have adopted an estimated $3 million Master Plan and Business Case for the redevelopment of the Town Hall building in Barton Street.

Established in 1893, the Cobar Town Hall holds both historical and cultural value for the community, having long served as a focal point for numerous events and traditions.

In her report to last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting, Council’s acting projects coordinator, Meike Griffiths advised the building’s “current state of neglect necessitates attention and strategic restoration to revive its historical essence and community relevance”.

Based on a feasibility and master plan report by architects DunnHillam and a business case report from Morris & Piper, it was recommended that a ‘No New Building Footprint’ option was the preferred choice.

Prior to their vote, councillors debated the matter with Cr Julie Payne declaring she opposed Council taking on another costly project “that no one really appears to care what happens to”.

Cr Payne said there was no response when options for a management plan were put out to the public for comment.

“It was out for four weeks and not one submission was received from the public, so what does that tell you?” she asked of her fellow councillors.

Cr Payne said a number of local people have told her they attended wonderful events and parties at the Town Hall in the past.

“People of a younger generation wouldn’t give a damn about it, they don’t care and I can understand that.”

Cr Payne said the building shouldn’t be renovated just for sentimental reasons.

“It’s not even heritage listed.”

She suggested the proposed uses for the renovated Town Hall listed in the business case were already catered for in Cobar.

“We have just built a multi-million dollar hall at Ward Oval and we have the Youth Centre.”

She suggested that it would also replicate services that are already offered by the Cobar Bowling & Golf Club, Cobar Services Club and Cobar Rugby Club.

“I was disappointed it didn’t go out for an expression of interest for someone to purchase.

“The town needs more accommodation options and that could have been an ideal use for the building.

“Grants are drying up and it’s the ongoing maintenance that’s going to be a problem,” Cr Payne said.

Cr Lillian Simpson spoke in favour of the motion to seek funding for the renovation of the building.

“We need somewhere in town where we can have displays and things like that, things that can’t be displayed at the museum because there is no room,” Cr Simpson said.

She said there was also a need for somewhere to display travelling exhibitions in an area that can be locked up securely citing the clubs and Ward Oval pavilion (with its many windows) were not suitable venues.

“I want to see the building retained for its heritage value but I also think it could be a good cultural centre,” Cr Simpson said.

“It’s in a good location with eating and drinking places nearby.”

She was keen for Council to go ahead and get the project “shovel ready” should grant funding become available.

“I think as a Council that it’s our duty to be looking ahead for the town.”