Southern Downs councillors
Southern Downs councillors

‘You’re scaremongering’: Tensions fly over $4m arts revamp

Southern Downs councillors got riled up over a contentious vote on the future of the Stanthorpe Art gallery, with fears the upgrade would come at a $2 million cost to ratepayers.
Councillors gathered this morning to vote on a range of options for a revamp to the Weerona Park site, including a minimal $250,000 upgrade, a 'modest' $1.5 million grade, the recommended $4 million expansion, or a new site costing $12 million.

A vote to push the $4 million upgrade into the funding submission process was narrowly voted in by Mayor Vic Pennisi and councillors Sheryl Windle, Jo McNally, Marco Gliori and Cameron Gow.

Councillors Cynthia McDonald, Andrew Gale, Stephen Tancred and Ross Bartley all opposed the plan.

Cr Tancred said to consult with art gallery staff before applying for funding could lead to council "bending over" to suggestions for another decade.

"It's our art gallery, we decide on the final plan," he said.

"It could be that we decide that we're going to do something (art gallery staff) don't want for very good operational reasons."

He also added recently decided projects such as Emu Swamp Dam negotiations meant the council had already spent $17 million in Stanthorpe alone, pushing for the lower $1.5m upgrade instead.

"The other bells and whistles aren't off the table and maybe in five to 10 years we fund those," he said.

"I think the good faith of Warwick, Killarney and Allora would understand about Stanthorpe's need for water, sewerage and rubbish upgrades, but they might be asking a few questions about why we're spending so much money to expand the art gallery in this current tight financial times."

 

Concept designs from Conrad Gargett show what the propsed $12m new Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery could look like.
Concept designs from Conrad Gargett show what the propsed $12m new Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery could look like.

 

Cr McNally, who suggested gallery staff form a steering committee for greater consultation, snapped back at Cr Tancred.

She said the sewerage treatment plan was already included in the budget forecast, as well a gallery upgrade.

"You seem to be doing a bit of scaremongering around the community,' she said.

"This is about the future. I'm not an expert, you're not an expert, none of us sitting around this table are an expert. I think (the $4m upgrade) is a good compromise."

Cr Windle backed Cr McNally's statement.

"We do own the art gallery, but we put people in there to work," she said.

"We expect people to volunteer their time and services, valued time actually, and we do have a paid staff member.

"I do think there are the experts in that field not us and they should have some input."

The Stanthorpe Regional Art Galley's push to improve safety hazards and display their full $4 million collection was rejected in 2019.

The passed option would consist of a significant build-out on the northern and eastern sides of the existing gallery and the eastern side of the existing library.

It would comprise additional space for education and workshops, staff, storage and gallery.



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