Senior Citizens say sharing space with U3A won’t work

Sale Senior Citizens Club - Left to Right: Secretary Joy Wallace, President Yvonne Martin, Treasurer Vivienne Martin, Vice Treasurer Lesley Jones

Stefan Bradley

Sale Senior Citizens’ Club is set to enter a co-tenancy with another senior group, Sale U3A, from February — but not everyone is happy with the new arrangement.

Wellington Shire Council has been attempting to facilitate two separate arrangements with Sale Senior Citizens’ Club and Sale U3A.

According to Sale Senior Citizens’ Club president Yvonne Martin, the parties have been unable to reach an agreement with Sale U3A, but council is pushing ahead anyway.

Ms Martin said they felt pressured.

“About 10 months ago, we were approached by council officers to bring another group into this building on a co-tenancy basis,” Ms Martin said, “bearing in mind we’ve been caring for this building for 50 years on our own without interference, and now all of a sudden we’ve got the council telling us what’s going to happen.”

The building was declared open on June 14, 1968, with the title made out to ‘The Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of the City of Sale’.

After undertaking research and receiving advice, Sale Senior Citizens’ Club learnt that legally they don’t have control of the centre any more.

“Even though the whole building, the land, everything, was provided by public donations, canvassing, fundraising — it was all private money,” Ms Martin said.

A copy of title documents seen by the Gippsland Times show that in 2013, council applied for the recording of a Disposition of Land.

The original title ‘The Mayor, Councillors and Citizens of the City of Sale’ was changed to ‘Wellington Shire Council — sole proprietor’.

Ms Martin said the group was in disbelief as to how this could have happened.

“You’ve got a building here worth half a million bucks which we thought was ours — turns out legally, it isn’t,” she said.

“But morally?”

“That’s a bit rough I think, just to assume ownership.”

Sale Senior Citizens’ Club believes the change has had little effect on the group’s operations, apart from the lease requirements, and members have been able to run the centre without interference — until now.

From the time the co-tenancy proposal came up 10 months ago, many scenarios have been put to Sale Senior Citizens’ Club, and Ms Martin said they looked at each one carefully.

“All of which we’ve looked at really carefully, and decided that the financials and the physicality of it is not going to work for us,” she said.

Under council’s plan, Sale U3A will be allocated the facility’s carpet bowls room.

Ms Martin said U3A would be given exclusive access to the room, except for Friday afternoons when Sale Senior Citizens’ Club members would use it for carpet bowls.

“At the moment that room is under-used, I’ll admit that, but being seniors we’ve had a few people fall off the perch, mostly bowlers,” Ms Martin said.

“And because of COVID, we haven’t marketed it, because what’s the good of organising tournaments if you’re open this week and then not open next week for a month?”

“But now that we’re living with COVID — or coping with it — we’re ready to go, but we’ve lost the room, so we can’t go anywhere.”

Ms Martin said the carpet bowlers would have to roll up the mats after they had finished so U3A members could use the room.

“Those mats are 30 feet long and six feet wide, and our bowlers are in their 70s and 80s. Would you like your mum to roll up a mat that size?

“They are providing us with rollers, but they are manual rollers, and they’re still difficult to operate, so our bowling program is going to go under.

“We might only have a few bowlers at the moment, but we had plans to extend it, and that’s going to curtail all those.”

In a statement, Wellington Shire Mayor Ian Bye said Sale U3A was “in need of a new home and the Sale Senior Citizens have a considerable amount of under-used space in a council-owned building”.

“Council has worked to ensure there will be no financial impact to the Sale Senior Citizens by having the Sale U3A share the space as co-tenants,” he said.

“It makes sense to have both groups utilise this space, both from a financial point of view because there will be a sharing of running and maintenance costs for the building, and it will also provide better access to programs and activities by the older people in our community.”

U3A was approached for comment, but a spokesperson said its members wanted to wait until the draft arrangement was released in mid-January.