Gliding ultimatum

By Simon Ruppert

Benalla Rural City Council has issued an ultimatum to the Gliding Club of Victoria — pay up, or get out.

At an extraordinary meeting of BRRC’s finance and operations committee councillors clashed over a motion put forward by Mayor Don Firth.

That motion stated the Gliding Club of Victoria Inc, Benalla Aeropark Club Inc, and the State Gliding Centre Committee of Management either sign the revised leases, which have been increased by council to reflect the cost of running the site, and pay $16904, or vacate their premises at Benalla Airport.

The money requested is the Gliding Club’s share of the cost of developing the leases.

If they don’t pay and sign the leases the council wants them out by close of business today.

While the exchange between councillors was more passive-aggressive than heated, the airport leases are still a contentious issue in Benalla.

When discussing the motion Cr Firth said: ‘‘I believe the gliding club will assist us by signing the leases and paying the money owed.’’

In response, Cr Danny Claridge said he was ‘‘disappointed’’ Cr Firth had put this motion to council.

‘‘They said last week they will sign the lease and pay the money owed,’’ he said.

Cr Peter Davis agreed and said he believed the mayor had made the decision out of frustration and confirmed he would not be supporting it.

‘‘Council hasn’t been squeaky clean (in these negotiations), neither has the gliding club,’’ Cr Davis said.

‘‘This motion is not showing good faith.’’

At this point council chief executive Tony McIlroy interjected to warn councillors ‘‘it’s not appropriate for the gliding club to contact (individual) councillors directly’’.

He went on to state issues such as this must go through the correct channels.

In response to councillors Claridge and Davis, Cr Firth said he understood their point.

‘‘But this has been going on too long and it must come to an end,’’ he said.

‘‘If it’s not paid by September 5 the motion will stand.’’

Gliding club president Jonathan McAliece said the club had received notice to pay or vacate, but he had been made aware that the motion had ‘‘fairly weak’’ support within council.

‘‘It’s pretty disappointing really,’’ Mr McAliece said.

‘‘Since I came into the role of president last year, I put a stop to the negative social media campaign and we’ve been working hard with some councillors in the background to keep the gliding club here in Benalla,’’ Mr McAliece said.

‘‘I guess there’s people in council who want to disrupt things.

‘‘The motion requested the gliding club pay an invoice, not only before its due date, but it’s also a payment that we can’t make yet.

‘‘We’re actually waiting on a signature from council before we can.

‘‘We received the leases. We were told it would be the last revision to the leases a couple of weeks ago and we’ve been scrambling to get agreement from the members.

‘‘Our vice-president and I have both signed the document and we’re now waiting on the council.

‘‘We wish to stay in Benalla. That is the intention.

‘‘A couple of councillors have stepped up and they can see the benefit of having the club in Benalla. They’ve been working hard with us to get this deal over the line.

‘‘We don’t want to go; they don’t want us to go. It just seems bizarre that so close to having the thing signed and done and dusted that a motion like this is raised by other councillors.

‘‘I presume it will all be sorted out by September 5 and once it’s signed we would be contractually obliged to pay and that’s exactly what we’ll do.

‘‘I think it’s crazy that some people are actively trying to derail the agreement before it happens.’’