In response to the article “Country universities bag bank” published in The Area News on December 17, 2018, we want to bring to the attention of readers and Griffith and surrounding communities our concerns about the Western Riverina Country University Centre (WRCUC) project.
As the owners of 161 Remembrance Drive, Griffith, we wanted to dedicate this historic radio and television station building to university educational use.
This is why our building has not been rented for any commercial use in the two years since its sale. In that time we worked relentlessly and trusted Griffith City Council and Country Universities Centre (CUC) to work with us to bring a higher education opportunity to Griffith.
We adhered to the advice and recommendations of the CUC and council, maintained distance from any conflict-of-interest issues, and allowed them to use our property information as a base for securing more than $2 million in state and federal government funding.
Last week it came to us as a sudden shock when council general manager Brett Stonestreet advised via email that a final decision had been made for the WRCUC study centre to be located at the former State Bank House building at 81 Kooyoo Street.
We are saddened and disappointed and believe the decision has been made without thorough consensus, proper consultations and transparent tendering procedures.
The proposed use of 161 Remembrance Drive for the centre was noted and discussed at numerous council meetings and there have been general discussions since our formal expression of interest was lodged.
The 81 Kooyoo Street property, owned by the council, was proposed for the WRCUC project only after the grant from the state and federal governments was awarded.
For more than 18 months, the CUC’s Duncan Taylor used floor plans, costings for refurbishments and other information from 161 Remembrance Drive to help secure the funding, but then the CUC abruptly switched support to the smaller 81 Kooyoo Street site.
We understand that the decision to consider 81 Kooyoo Street was made without the knowledge of Griffith councillors and directors of the WRCUC board, and long after the tender dates closed, without an EOI, and with no site visits by the board.
As Griffith locals, and after a very long wait, we feel we have been used by these organisations and our trust has been breached.
It is still unclear to us how a two-room former bank building with one bathroom can accommodate the present and future needs of Griffith and its university students, let alone visiting students doing work experience at local schools and hospitals, as Mr Taylor told The Area News in its December 17 report.
We are concerned that the WRCUC might end up a multimillion dollar internet cafe that in the long run will require additional state and federal funding to maintain because all aspects were not adequately and transparently considered from the inception stage.
While you're with us, did you know that you can now receive updates straight to your inbox every Monday at 6am from The Area News? To make sure you're up to date with all the Griffith and MIA news you can sign up here.