Clean up Gatha eyesore

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Clean up Gatha eyesore

Not on: Darryl McGannon, president of the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jim Fawcett, get lost in the grass at the old school site.

THE former Leongatha Primary School site has been over-run by vandals and is overgrown.
The large block – a potential prime piece of real estate – has been labelled as a “disgrace” and angry residents are calling on the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to tidy the premises.
The site has remained vacant since the end of last year, when the primary school relocated to a new site within the Leongatha Education Precinct.
Community College Gippsland – formerly Education Centre Gippsland – was due to move into the site but a lease is yet to be confirmed.
Former classrooms have been left to decay and grass is long, posing a fire hazard and a snake haven. Worse still, children continue to play there.
Holes have been smashed in the walls of the former Carol Smillie Centre and windows in other buildings broken.
Leongatha resident Greg Twite walks through the site regularly and was dismayed.
“A major asset in this town is the old Leongatha Primary School site and it’s a disgrace in the middle of town,” he told a  public meeting of South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday.
Leongatha North man Chris Howard added: “It’s the Bronx.
“If I lived in Horn Street, I would be getting a petition up.”
The meeting also heard people were using the site “as a squat”.
“It’s a building that could have been put to good service and it’s just being destroyed. It’s a building that should have been used. It’s got to the stage where it’s not worth fixing it,” Mr Twite said.
“It needs to be a safe spot and it’s not, and it’s an asset sitting there.”
Cr Jim Fawcett said the department should hear the community’s discontent.
“Do not let the education department get off lightly,” he said, telling The Star on Friday the department had a duty of care to maintain the site and reduce the need for repairs in the long run.
“It’s stuck in the middle of a Residential One Zone and they (the department) have got an obligation to maintain it to ensure it does not impinge on the amenity of neighbours.”
Council’s community strengthening manager Ned Dennis said he understood the college had wanted to use a portion of the site, but with conditions.
“The new tenant did not want to move into a new site that is a mess,” he told the council meeting.
Darryl McGannon, president of the Leongatha Chamber of Commerce and Industry, informed the meeting council should be lobbying the education department on the community’s behalf.
“Councillors should be representing us and saying it’s an eyesore and it’s an opportunity that will be wasted,” he told the meeting.
“We should not have to bring it to a forum like this for something to be done.”
Kevin Mealing, the education department’s regional director-operations, said a contractor had been paid to mow the site frequently and was due to mow the grass yesterday (Monday).
But when The Star inspected the site at 2.30pm, the grass was untouched.
“If it’s been let go, then we will chase that up,” he said.
Council CEO Tim Tamlin has pledged to contact the education department in a bid to have the site addressed.
Cr Fawcett said removing the buildings to make way for a park could cost up to $1.5 million and said with McIndoe Park nearby, there was hardly a need for another reserve.
Community College Gippsland is still planning to move to the site and has raised the condition of the site with the department.
Alex Todorovski, Community College Gippsland business operations manager at Leongatha, said a lease agreement was yet to be finalised.
“The department is looking at a final assessment of what needs to be repaired there, from the roof down to the ground,” he said.
“Until we get a fixed date from the department and a final lease, we can’t really doing anything.”
The college had planned to move to the site this time last year. The move was then postponed to second term this year and then again to the start of fourth term.
“It would take seven to eight weeks for us to move in there, just to get all of our operations over there and functional and all the IT set-up,” Mr Todorovski said.
“The longer the buildings take to repair, it’s going to make matters worse down the track.”
Mr Mealing said the central office of the education department in Melbourne was working on the lease. A spokesperson was not available for comment before going to print.
Moving to the bigger site from the current premises in Nerrena Road would enable the college to expand its hair and beauty, and art courses, and reintroduce such hobby courses as welding.
Mr Todorovski said he appreciated the department faced a major challenge in restoring the site and that that would take time.
“The people at the department are trying their best. It’s just a matter of waiting for the realisation of what they are saying to come good,” he said.

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Posted by on Nov 3 2011. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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