Basketball ‘blue’ still in play

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A LEASE deal that will allow the long-awaited redevelopment of Frankston Basketball Stadium remains unsigned despite an agreement announced in July.

Former federal MP for Dunkley Bruce Billson brokered a deal between Frankston Council and the Frankston & District Basketball Stadium three months ago and the $12.7 million first stage upgrade of the stadium seemed set to proceed after months of dispute between council and the association (“Stadium deal on the bell”, The Times 3/7/17).

Cr Colin Hampton introduced a notice of motion at last Monday evening’s public council meeting on 25 September that slammed the association’s “reticence to commit to bona fide negotiations of a new lease agreement”.

“We all thought that we’d come to an agreement with them,” Cr Hampton said. “It’s time we had a look at where we stand with this because the finance on this is balancing on a bloody knife edge.

“We’ve got state and federal funding here that might go down the chute if we don’t hurry up and finish this project.”

Frankston Council is contributing $4 million of ratepayers’ money to the stadium upgrade alongside $2.5 million from the state government and $5.2 million from the federal government in taxpayers’ money.

Association president Gary Emery told The Times that Cr Hampton’s comments at the public council were “unhelpful” and said the FDBA are not “the bad citizens” in lease negotiations.

Mr Emery said the playing court had been moved since the July agreement brokered by Mr Billson.

“We conceded a lot and agreed to certain things we didn’t want and compromised a lot. We accepted a review of our lease every seven years, for example,” Mr Emery said.

“It falls well short of us slowing the process up — it’s actually the opposite. We are committed to the project commencing and being completed. We’d just like to see the back of the lease negotiations. We just want the lease signed.

“We’re happy to go back to the Bruce Billson negotiated position.”

Cr Hampton last week blasted the not-for-profit association for being unwilling to open its books and provide “full financials” as part of lease negotiations.

Mr Emery said the FBDA is happy to provide its audited accounts in keeping with its existing lease agreement which has about nine years to run if a new lease deal is not signed.

Cr Kris Bolam said at the council meeting “the amount of time we’ve spent on the Frankston District Basketball Association, in my opinion, has been inordinate.

“The amount of backwards and forwards … has been incredible,” he said. “We need to make a decision on this — whether we walk away, whether we remain. It needs to come to a head. The amount of officers’ time, the amount of money that’s being accrued. It’s bordering on becoming a joke. We need to make a decision.”

Cr Glenn Aitken defended the association at the meeting.

“I have to say, that in my view, the negotiations with the basketball association from this council have been deplorable,” he said.

“They have been treated, as far as I’m concerned, with great discourtesy and very rudely at times. I have been at the meetings and I have seen the degree of aggression that has been exhibited towards them and that is not how you arrive at an outcome.”

Cr Hampton said he had never seen any aggression towards the association.

“I know what I’ve seen with my own eyes and I am not satisfied with it,” Cr Aitken said.

“I find it absolutely objectionable. I think it’s a very sad day when a city council is at loggerheads with a huge organisation that services our city and upholds a great many people – a 14,000 membership.”

Councillors also discussed the ongoing lease negotiations behind closed doors after last week’s public council meeting.

“We’re still working through the lease with the FDBA and hope to come to a resolution in the near future,” Frankston mayor Cr Brian Cunial said in a statement after that discussion.

Builder Devco Project & Construction Management contractors have been ready to start upgrading the stadium for months amid the stalemate between council and the FDBA.

Crs Bolam, Cunial, Quinn McCormack, Lillian O’Connor, Michael O’Reilly, Sandra Mayer and Steve Toms backed Cr Hampton’s notice of motion calling on council officers to fully brief councillors on lease negotiations by 16 October.

Cr Aitken opposed the move.

First published in the Frankston Times – 2 October 2017

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