COUNCIL DEBATE: Southern Downs councillors reached no conclusion at the end of their lengthy discussion. Picture: SDRC
COUNCIL DEBATE: Southern Downs councillors reached no conclusion at the end of their lengthy discussion. Picture: SDRC

COUNCIL CONFLICT: Debate breaks out over $100K grant package

DOZENS of not-for-profit organisations have been left in the lurch after Southern Downs councillors’ heated debate over funding recipients stalled their projects’ progress.

The $100,000 Community Drought Recovery Project asked groups across the region to submit funding applications for projects to get help get them back on their feet.

SDRC received 35 submissions, which “significantly oversubscribed” the funding pool and left council officers scrambling to reallocate another $100,000 from a separate government grant.

Even with the extra funding, several applications will likely be denied, leaving Southern Downs councillors divided as to which groups were most deserving.

SDRC is yet to release the full list of applicants approved by a council panel, as the green light remained subject to a council vote.

Councillor Andrew Gale was one of those most vocal against the likely approvals, questioning in particular whether sporting clubs pitching “member-focused” projects should receive funding.

“Some questions relate to the scope of the project, because my understanding of eligibility was a not-for-profit providing a service with a broad community benefit,” Cr Gale said.

“One that springs to mind is the upgrades to the Warwick Gliding Club at the airport – my understanding is it’s hard to access that, and (the policy) says those focused on members shouldn’t be eligible.”

Mayor Vic Pennisi was quick to counter Cr Gale’s argument, saying a new clubhouse at Massie Airport would serve both the community and its reputation with travellers.

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Cr Gale was not alone in his objections, with fellow councillor Stephen Tancred voicing a number of concerns that several clubs being licensed premises would overrule their application.

“I have confidence in the panel members, chaired by councillors Marco (Gliori) and Sheryl (Windle) for their stewardship in reviewing these ... but we have to be very vigilant with ratepayers’ money and more so with government funding,” Cr Tancred said.

The lengthy debate continued for several minutes, excluding only Cr Windle, who excused herself from the full discussion due to a declared conflict of interest.

Enough objections were raised to see the final approval delegated to council CEO David Burges, though no timeline was given for a final decision.

Under the current policy, all successful applicants must complete their projects by December 31.

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