RSL rate debate splits councillors

ON THE FOREFRONT: Mount Gambier Community Returned and Services League president Bob Sandow flanked by newly elected committee members Major Des Scheidl and Leigh Newton. Mr Sandow was elected RSL president for a fourth term during the league's annual general meeting on Sunday.

MOUNT Gambier City council staff have recommended elected members consider the business activities of the Mount Gambier Community RSL in future deliberations about extending the club’s 50pc rate discount.

Councillors voted down a recommendation to contact the RSL in regards to extending their two-year rebate on their three assessments – the carpark, museum and RSL – which total just under $12,000 each year.

The motion, however, did not restrict the RSL from contacting council to seek a further rate rebate.

The recommendation was moved by second-term councillor Christian Greco, who said he was a “big supporter” of granting the rebate at the time.

In supporting the motion, Cr Greco said the local club “is still struggling a fair amount”.

“It would be good to see where they are at and what they come back with,” he said.

In 2017, the Mount Gambier Community RSL Committee requested council consider providing the sub-branch with financal assistance due to ongoing financial hardship.

Council granted a 50pc discount on their rates over a two year period from July 2017 – a total of $23,600 off their $46,600 rate bill – which would be reviewed in 2019.

A staff report tabled at this week’s meeting said it was “not council’s role to provide financial assistance to a commercial activity”.

However, they were open to further discussions with the RSL.

The staff report recommended council “might consider the business/commercial activities” of the RSL and the “community need/benefit” arising from the club.

Cr Steve Perryman indicated he would not support the motion, saying it was his understanding the club’s financial hardship related to their commercial operations, such as pokies, bar and renovations.

“For that reason, I think the community has done enough in giving them a hand up,” he said.

“Council and the rest of the community have been extremely generous to the RSL I believe in relation to this matter.”

“Council released RSL from the land management agreement so they could sell off some property and cash flow.

“That was property with a land management agreement over it for the purpose of providing car parking spaces.

“We have done that to the detriment of the rest of the community in terms of a now reduction in car park.

“Council has also relieved them of somewhere around $20,000 to $30,000 in terms of charges that we have not sought through rates.”

Crs Greco and Kate Amoroso voted in support of communicating with the Mount Gambier Community RSL in relation to further rebates, with Cr Perryman, Sonya Mezinic, Ben Hood, Max Bruins, Paul Jenner and Frank Morello opposing the motion.

RSL president Bob Sandow said he was reserving comment until next week’s committee meeting.