Sports clubs may be left with bill
IT'S a cost Stanthorpe's sporting clubs can't shoulder, but it's one they may have to live with if the Southern Downs Regional Council decides to stop maintaining sporting grounds around town once elected later this month.
It has been a concern for Stanthorpe Sports Association sports co-ordinator Michael Jensen for some time.
He said the facilities - CF White Oval, Sheahan Oval, Crisp Oval and Sullivan Oval in particular - were council-owned and should be maintained by council.
Mr Jensen said local sporting clubs had been doing their part for the facilities by pouring about $800,000 into them in the past five years.
"I doubt very much that they (sporting groups) can shoulder much more of the responsibility. We already inject much of our profit into the facilities," Mr Jensen said.
"Council have been very kind to provide the facilities and maintain them, but we've taken on the responsibility to ensure the facilities are improved.
"We've certainly put our fair share into the facilities."
The question was posed to the 22 council and eight mayoral candidates at a forum in Stanthorpe last week.
After hearing the answers firsthand, Mr Jensen said the jury was still out for the facilities.
"I thought Vic Pennisi and John Randall provided some hope for the sporting groups in our community and I hope the other candidates understand the importance of council-owned facilities being maintained for their community," he said.
"There wasn't a lot said that answered the total question, but the solution needs to be worked out by council.
"They've got to look at their priorities and they've got to look at their obligations."
The Sports Association has written to each of the candidates for answers to more detailed questions.
But Mr Jensen said until councillors were elected they wouldn't know what they could and couldn't do.
"We support swimming pools, art galleries and libraries, why don't we support community sporting facilities which are owned by council?" he said.
"It keeps kids active and reduces obesity."
Mr Jensen said the first step for the new council would be to sit down with the Sports Association and sporting groups and include them in council discussions.
He said the various associations were aware a budget had to be adhered to and admitted it wouldn't be an easy problem to solve.
"Everyone's of their own opinion, I certainly agree that council needs to look at the budgetary issues," he said.
"But they also need to look at where money can be saved to continue maintaining these facilities.
"Council have been very efficient in providing great sporting fields for our community for decades.
"And as long as council sits down and talks to us rather than making sweeping changes we can work something out."
The current agreement between council and sporting groups across the Southern Downs is for sporting clubs in the region's north to mow and maintain their fields at the council-owned facilities which they lease.
Much of Stanthorpe's McGlew St sports complex, which is owned by council, was gifted to the previous council by locals for the community's use for their sporting activities.
Today the Stanthorpe Sports Association leases the sporting fields and then sub-leases the fields to their associated sporting clubs.
Prior to and since amalgamation, council has continued to mow the fields.
The clubs have mainly been responsible for maintaining and improving infrastructure and buildings at this site, with the monies they generate being reinvested back into improving the facilities.