A passionate community meeting at the American River Hall could have secured the hall’s future.
About 80 people squeezed into the hall on Tuesday, January 19, to voice their support, or opposition, to the hall remaining open in its current place.
The hall was built in 1928 and received local heritage status in 2009.
Greg Griffin, a solicitor in Adelaide was flown in to act as an independent facilitator for the discussion.
A part of the crowd were 12 members of the Save The Hall Action Group, who had prepared statistics and statements for the meeting.
Talks regarding the future of the hall have been in progress since 2007, although the latest events look set to finally spark some action.
When asked whether keeping the hall in the same position was their preference, 61 audience members voted for, two against, while one member remained undecided.
Mayor Peter Clements chaired the event and intended to convey the community’s wishes when council met next.
“It is obvious to me that the community has spoken and has spoken very clearly. Council will now consider this at its next meeting,” he said.
“In a sense the community’s view to retain the hall was the easiest part of the exercise but the work to upgrade and maintain the asset will require much more input from the community, I am confident however that the passion exhibited by the community at the recent meeting will once again be shown in the future work required.
“I encourage the community to commence looking at options and opportunities so that the Hall can be utilised more fully and that the American River Community and Progress Association provide a promotional plan to help achieve this.”
“Council recognises the community’s excellent track record in pitching in with volunteer labour, and raising funds to achieve some excellent outcomes and this will always be supported,” Mayor Clements said.
Land adjacent to the hall was previously sold for $60,000 with the funds earmarked for the hall’s renovations.
The Save The Hall Action Group says council estimates for renovations of $300 to 400 thousand were grossly exaggerated and the group estimated the hall could be brought up to a usable standard for $86,000 – with more renovations continuing after.
“Out of all the money council’s spent on halls over four years, the American River Hall has only had 2.18% spent on it,” said group member Jen Stevenson.
Several options for the future of the hall were raised including demolishing it, renovating the hall on its current location, and moving the hall to a more central part of town – although the ability to move the building was called into question due to its unorthodox structural base.
“I think the hall is in the geographically wrong spot,” said American River Progress Association chair Greg Roberts, although he made it clear he did not speak on behalf of the association.
“It’s wonderfully built. I’ve grown up here, but I think the time has come.”
Prior to the meeting the Save The Hall Action Group had circulated a survey among the community, with 119 in favour of keeping the hall, and only two respondents opposed – although facilitator Greg Griffin said the question “should we let the CEO knock it down sell off the land and use the money somewhere else, because this is what he wants to do” was “defamatory”.
The group says the facilitator favoured the council and it was unnecessary and costly for him to be flown in from Adelaide, saying money could have been better spent towards the hall itself.
“The concern to us as ratepayers is council’s approach of managing the community meeting,” said group member Kim Burnham.
“Only five days prior to the meeting advice was received by the acting CEO that a facilitator had been engaged to oversee the meeting.
“This was a surprise as Wendy Campana, the commissioner for Kangaroo Island, had agreed to chair the meeting.
“So at Kangaroo Island ratepayers’ expense an Adelaide based solicitor, Greg Griffin, was flown over to steer the ship. Council needs to justify this and advise us how much this cost us.”
Ms Campana seemed optimistic of the meeting’s outcome resulting in a clear direction.
“The meeting clearly indicated support from those present to upgrade the hall. The next steps will be for the council to consider the feedback from the meeting and determine the next steps,” she said.