Walka Water Works Pump HouseA motion to find out the cost of re-fittingthe Walka Water Works Pump House building to make it open to the public was voted down at Tuesday night’s Maitland Council meeting.
The motion, whichwas raised by Independent councillor Philip Penfold, also requested a report considering possible difficulties, including DA requirements to operate a café at the premises and that the report be prepared in time for next year’s operational plan.
Penfold Team councillors Peter Garnham, Philip Penfold, Nicole Penfold and Mike Yarrington as well as Liberal councillor Sally Halliday were the only ones to support the motion.
The site is owned by the state government but managed by council under trust.
In 2014, council sought expressions of interestfrom private operators locally and interstate to redevelop and commercially run thebuilding, which already contains a cafe. No inquiries or applications were received.
Labor councillor Robert Aitchison said that raised “alarm bells”.
But Cr Garnham said the commercial return would not be enough for the owner to cover refurbishment costs, and Cr Nicole Penfold said most small business people would not have the capital to re-fit an entire building.
Cr Philip Penfold compared it to the cafe at Maitland Regional Art Gallery.
“We tried to lease that cafe and there was no interest,” he said. “We actually had to pay to find someone willing to be in that cafe, now it’s virtually the best cafe in Maitland.”
Other concerns raised wereabout asbestos issues in the building, the expense and resources to prepare thereport,that the request didn’t come from the Walka Water Works Committeeandthat the motion only mentioned a cafe as an option for the building. Some councillors mentioned the site would make a great micro-brewery.
Liberal Councillor Kanchan Renadive also said a mobile coffee van hadsought business at the site, but had to stop after it was not financially viable.
But Cr Philip Penfold said he believed that the councillors’ problems weren’t with the idea, butwho raised it.
“I think if it was recommended to you by the general manageryou’d view it differently,” he said atthe meeting.
“If you think people in Maitland don’t want a cafe at Walka Water Works you’re out of touch with your community.
“We’re not committing money to do any works yet. All we’re trying to do is get it shovel ready for state and federal governments to hopefully come forward and fund it.”
Cr Penfold said not spending money to do a report now would not save money in the future.
“Unless you’re suggesting never ever doing something in that beautiful building,” he said. “Surely you’re not going to leave a historic building to crumble.”