August 24th, 2020Trentham community hub pushes ahead
Little is known about the banner or the artists (Messrs Will Eagan and Mr Charleton according to newspaper reports at the time ) but it is obviously a thumbs down to the British Empire and probably reflected quite a controversial feeling at the time, according to Trentham historian Nicole Poole.
Ms Poole is part of an advisory group set up to push ahead with the community centre development. The project, which has been in the planning for years, has ignited its own controversy, dividing the community. Heated debates have played out in Hepburn Shire Council meetings and on social media between residents who are keen to bring the Mechanics Hall back to life and those who believe the town would be better serviced by a larger, new facility able to seat up to 250 people.
Questions have also been raised as to the historic value of the building which has been renovated many times over the last century.
“There are those who doubt its relevancy but there is so much history in the place,” Ms Poole said. “We have to remember that in coming years all these artefacts will be special, you really have to preserve what you can.”
Mayor and Coliban Ward Cr Licia Kokocinski said there had been four years of talk and it was “a very hard and emotional subject for many people”.
“The reality is Trentham is a small town with a population of around 1500. The cost of a new, bigger hall would be much more than the $3.5 million that has been projected.”
Hepburn Council has set aside $800,000 for the development with the balance to be sought in government grants.
“If we went to the state or federal government and asked for funding for a hall of that size to serve such a small population we wouldn’t be taken seriously,” she added, noting that larger ongoing costs would be left to ratepayers.
Cr Kokocinski said that although the results of a 2018 community poll as to where the hub should be located were close, the vote to keep the Mechanics Hall won out. An advisory board, made up of representatives from a cross-section of the town’s population, project managers and architects, has developed a draft concept design which is now up for public review and feedback.
The design includes a council customer service building, library, visitor information centre, community meeting rooms and a hall with either a fixed or portable stage. The design and survey response forms have been posted online. Fliers will be sent out to residents and hard copies can be accessed on request.
“We want to use the many photos and historic artefacts which are in the hall to come up with a design which is faithful to the iterations of the building,” Cr Kokocinski said.
“The message we’re receiving from residents so far has been very clear, the majority of people want to keep the hall and build something in keeping with the times and the area.”
Community consultation closes at the end of August.
Words: Jane Williams