Council will not buy the Regent Theatre.
That's the outcome of an extraordinary meeting held by Mid-Western Regional Council this afternoon.
The meeting, which was attended by so many members of the public that they spilled out into the lobby of the Council chambers, was punctuated by tense interactions between the public and members of Council with the meeting at one point being adjourned by Cr Kennedy before being reopened shortly after.
After coming back from a closed session, Council moved the recommendation that the Council recognise the heritage significance of the building and write to the NSW Premier and Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders encouraging the state Government to purchase the 'this important building', The Regent Theatre on behalf of the community.
This ends any possibility of Council purchasing the building. If the NSW Government were interested in purchasing the building, they need to act fast - with the building set for auction on March 6.
The first speaker to speak in support of the Regent was founder of Revive the Regent, Simone Sheridan who approached the podium to heavy applause.
"It's really an opportunity for Council to make a once-off, once-only capitol injection to safeguard the building for future community use as well as potential commercial operations in the theatre and entertainment industry," she said.
"What is it that's different now that we haven't had before and that is that community support. And it's also - we urge people to consider the Regent as a cinema only. It's very important that we consider live performance."
Mrs Sheridan compared venues of similar size and their revenue, showing a graph that suggested the Regent could reap significant financial gains given the right management.
"We'd like to ask Council to consider safeguarding this venue with a once-off, once-only capital injection. It's not the black hole that everyone seems to consider it," she said.
Cr Holden questioned Ms Sheridan's claims.
"What you're saying is the groups vision is to not just run it as a picture theatre, the way it used to traditionally by but more as a live performance and - you seriously believe you can make a million bucks a year out of it?" Cr Holden said.
"I believe the right venue operator can make the million dollars. So that's thing, I don't think Council should try and run the theatre. I think Council should collaborate with the actual like - expressions of interest, tenders," Ms Sheridan said.
"It's more about combining different revenue streams and still allowing community hire rates. So every group can still access it but it's actually not a burden for the community to run."
The second speaker in support of the Regent was Bruce Wilson, from the local branch of the National Trust of Australia who talked on the economic viability of purchasing the Regent and urged Council to buy the building.
He suggested the Regent presented a special proposition for Council.
"With the Regent I respectfully suggest that there is an opportunity here which might be the very last chance to take a visionary step to control an asset of great community value and, with careful management, ongoing financial viability," he said.
Mr Wilson admitted the building would need extensive restoration with costs in the 'six figures' for a minimal job and in 'the sevens' for a higher standard of repair. He said further support could come from Government grants and 'community support and involvement'.
He warned that a '2050' era Council forced to build a performance venue from scratch would look at a $10-20 million cost to provide such a facility.
Mr Wilson also suggested the the company Century Venues, who run the Enmore Theatre, were seriously interested in leasing the Regent were it to become operational and said there were others, but did not provide specifics.
This claim was refuted by Cr Kennedy who met with someone from the Enmore Theatre and did not get the impression they were terribly interested in The Regent.
What a Pandora's Box, how many other heritage listed buildings will have people coming in and lobbying Council to buy it for the community's benefit.
"I didn't get that vibe - I actually said to him 'If we buy it and give it to you, would you take it?' and he said 'Uhh, no.'...I wouldn't be hanging my hat on the guy from the theatre," Cr Kennedy said.
Finally, one speaker that spoke against purchasing the theatre, Mitchell Clapham, spoke to numerous community facilities that are - in his words - sorely underfunded and under resourced.
"I've been coming in here for twenty years...the wider community pay a lot of rates for service. This Regent is not a community need, it's a community want," he said.
"If it's such a sound business case, then leave it to business. Leave business to business. If it's viable, business will do it.
"What a can of worms that you're going to open. How many heritage buildings are there in Mid-Western Regional Council that are looking for funding? You're going to [put] millions into one.
"What a Pandora's Box, how many other heritage listed buildings will have people coming in and lobbying Council to buy it for the community's benefit."
At the conclusion of Mr Wilson's statements, an unregistered member of the public began to speak against the rules of the Code of Meeting Conduct.
Mr Robert Lamond began speaking before Cr Kennedy struck the gavel and reminded Mr Lamond he knew he was not allowed to speak.
Mr Lamond did not heed warnings to stop speaking and as a result, Cr Kennedy adjourned the meeting prematurely, followed by an angry cry of 'that is the coward's way out, sir' from Lamond.
Almost immediately following the adjournment, Cr Percy Thompson moved a motion to reconvene the meeting which was passed and the meeting continued.
At the beginning of the meeting, Cr Kennedy addresses the question of why he was sitting in this meeting when in the past he had declared an interest that forced him to leave any discussion of the Regent in the past.
Essentially, past Development Applications (DA) were for casual entertainment venues, services that businesses Cr Kennedy has a hand in offer and that are in competition. However in this case, the discussion was only about whether Council should buy the building and thus no conflict arises.
Bob Lamond spoke up again and was again reminded that he was not allowed to speak.
As soon as the meeting began, Cr Peter Shelley put forward a motion that Council 'recognise the heritage value of the Regent Theatre and recognise the importance placed on this building by many in the community. And write to the Premier and Member for the Dubbo electorate, encouraging the state Government to purchase the this important building on behalf of the community.
After a brief closed session, Council resolved to the previous motion to encourage the NSW Government to purchase the building.
The Regent Theatre will be sold at auction on Friday March 6.
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