COUNCIL has agreed to loan the Griffith Sikh community $250,000 to complete construction of a temple that one councillor likened to Queensland’s Big Banana.
As part of more than half-a-million dollars doled out by council on Tuesday night, the Gurdwara Singh Sabha Society received unanimous support for a 10-year loan to upgrade the temple’s entrances.
Council’s director of financial services Max Turner strongly argued against the loan because it was too costly and other high priority road works would be significantly delayed.
Mayor John Dal Broi said committing roughly $570,000 in one council meeting, to a refurbishment of the Griffith Regional Theatre and the Sikh temple, made him “slightly nervous”.
“This will not embarrass Griffith City Council financially as we will be very vigilant with how we spend our funds, but I am very aware a lot of our ratepayers are not looking for an increase in rates,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“It’s a big loan and some people may say we’ve set a precedent now, so we have to be 100 per cent sure the community is not disadvantaged.
“That is why is one of the conditions is that the loan is fully secured, not by a society, but secured by individuals through whatever property they wish to put up, whether it’s one property or 10.”
Cr Dino Zappacosta said the temple would be a landmark Griffith could proud of and council staff had inflated the budgetary burden of the loan.
“This temple will help put Griffith on the map nationally akin to the Big Banana and we’ll be known as the wonderful city with the big Sikh temple,” Cr Zappacosta said.
“If you assume a 3 per cent return instead of Max Turner’s 6 per cent projection, this loan will only cost council $100,000 which is $10,000 per year and council regularly gives donations worth more than $10,000, such as to the ski boats and the (ARB) off-road championship.
“There is precedent for this sort of money to be spent on the promotion of Griffith and this should not be any different.”
Sikh community spokesman Harnek Singh Dhanoa said his community had covered the costs of building the temple, but could not afford to upgrade Rae Road and Kidman Way, a condition of the development approval.
“A lot of Indians in the community pay their rates and deserve something back,” Mr Harneck said. “We think council should help us because the temple will attract migrants and a lot of tourists, not to mention we’ve hired local tradies for all the work.
“As an example, more doctors will take jobs at Griffith Base Hospital and the new private hospital because they will see there’s a big Sikh community here.”
Painters will begin work next week indicating the temple will likely be finished by mid-June at a cost of $2.5 million, excluding road works.