Southern Downs Regional Councillors at the Slade School meeting at the Warwick council chambers yesterday.
Southern Downs Regional Councillors at the Slade School meeting at the Warwick council chambers yesterday.

Slade School future still unknown

IF Darren Eather had his way, the former principal’s house at Slade School would be transformed into a respite centre caring for dementia suffers.

And the Dementia Support Group (DSG) member is prepared to offer $200,000 which the group has been raising since 1997 to make this a reality.

If Kelvin Hutchinson had his way, Slade would be developed into a youth mental health institution.

And keeping in this vein, it would become a second campus for Warwick State High School if Margaret McKinnon’s opinions were to be heeded.

These suggestions were among many presented yesterday at a special public meeting at the Warwick council chambers to help Southern Downs Regional Councillors decide the future of Slade School.

Council purchased the Slade School campus in 2007, amid much controversy, for $3.65 million and is currently trying to decide what to do with the site to battle huge ongoing maintenance costs.

At the start of the meeting, Mayor Ron Bellingham all but wiped a previously-mooted Chinese flight school plan off the table.

“There was a flight school which I’ve been negotiating with for six or seven years,” he said. “They seem to have disappeared ... I don’t think we need to rely on that.

“We’ve had a consultant do a feasibility study and plan and look at what the options are. We’ve decided to give the community their opportunity to have some input into this process.”

Of all the suggestions offered, only the DSG actually offered funds to support their plans.

“(DSG) decided in 2001 to number one, get some resources to help people with dementia and number two, a long-term plan to get a facility in Warwick,” Mr Eather said.

“We’re trying to achieve a place where people can go with dementia. At this stage, with the various golf days and local people’s support, we have managed to bank more than $200,000.

“One in six people in this room will either get dementia or be affected by it.”

Mr Eather – whose mother Pam started the DSG after caring for her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s – said at this stage there was no suitable respite centre to give carers of people suffering from dementia a break.

He said DSG hoped to transform the old principal’s residence into such a facility and employ about seven staff, with ongoing costs to be funded by the State and Federal Governments.

Meanwhile, Robbie Elsom from Satellite College has a much different vision for the former Anglican Church Grammar School campus – he sees Warwick as becoming the next Armidale, Lismore or Springfield – a tertiary education hub.

Mr Elsom said the council would lose an incredible opportunity to kick-start making Warwick a centre for tertiary education if the campus was subdivided and sold.

“Warwick has this wonderful opportunity with this great campus to develop it into an education precinct,” he said.

Satellite College is a vocational tertiary institution, which offers 69 qualifications and Mr Elsom wants to set up shop at the Slade School site.

He said the Rose City would be easily marketable to international students because of its safety.

“I see the opportunity for other private education providers to come here,” he said.

Long-term Rose City property developer and current partner in the development of Regency Park Ed Barber also gave a presentation on his plans for the campus.

Mr Barber said he hoped council would retain the oval and develop it into a parkland or open space for the future residents of Glennie Heights to enjoy.

Glennie Heights resident Don McKechnie said he believed strongly that council needed to use the oval as the site for a community/conference centre.

Former Warwick State High School teacher Margaret McKinnon was passionate that council and the community needed to lobby the State Government to use the Slade School as a split campus for the high school, which is under huge space pressures.

“I am passionate to see that we do something, it’s not just enough for us to say the government has no plans for us – how dare we let them have no plans for us,” she said.

“What we need to do is divide that school, whichever campus (senior or junior) it is, and send them up to Slade.”

Successful property developer Kelvin Hutchinson said it would be a lost opportunity if council did not look into an option to use the former school as a site for a youth mental health institution.

“What you have here is an asset that is almost ready to go. There is a real need for a facility like this ... the employment possibilities are huge,” Mr Hutchinson said.

There were also presentations from Slade School/St Catharine’s Past Students’ Association secretary Helen Moloney and former old boys Allan Donovan, Ron Ladner, Aub Warrener and Henry Watson.

Their separate, but similar, presentations focused on retaining key precincts of the campus and subdividing and selling off less important parts to recoup costs.

The old boys’ plan would see the heritage-listed Slade House refurbished and the dining room which adjoins the building moved to another section of the campus and marketed to a private investor as a restaurant.

Council’s chief executive officer Rod Ferguson said there were no specific deadlines for council to make a decision on the Slade School campus.

“At an officer level we would like to have some direction from council for the upcoming budget,” he said.



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