Port Germein residents voice their desire for school to be 'gifted' to town

VISION: Residents with a vision for the former school site gathered outside the grounds with Stuart MP and Cabinet Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, right.
VISION: Residents with a vision for the former school site gathered outside the grounds with Stuart MP and Cabinet Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, right.

Port Germein residents are keen to be ‘gifted’ the former local primary school.

This message came through loud and clear at a public meeting at the Institute on Sunday.

Answering community concerns, local MP and Energy and Mines Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan told the meeting of about 85 people that he would convey the sentiments to the state government.

Several speakers voiced the community’s desire to use the campus for a museum, a venue for respite from heat for elderly residents, a water-park and a community health centre.

Despite their comments, Mr van Holst Pellekaan also said it might be wise to allow a private developer to take over the site with spin-offs for the town.

But he said: “I don’t think there is anyone in the room who doesn’t want the school to be used for a community service.

“If we can come up with a good intention for the school to be retained, I can come up with a good case … to get them to hold up the disposal of the site.”

He said a submission from the community would need to outline how residents would invest in the project and earn a financial return.

“It is your decision. I am not trying to talk you out of it … I need some reasons regarding what the community will do with it,” he said.

Sue Perovic, of the progress association, told the meeting that the town would have greater success in gaining grants if it owned property. The association was looking at creating a water-park.

Another public meeting will be on May 28 to determine the next steps in the journey.

Karen Gore, who lives in an old school house attached to the campus, said the air-conditioned buildings could be used to provide respite for senior citizens in heatwaves.

Other places had supermarkets or hospitals that could be used for this purpose, but, she said, “we have nothing”.

Darlene Wyatt, secretary of the progress association, said the school had a great playground and it could host a “care kitchen” as well as donate accommodation back to the community.

She said it could also be used for a book exchange and community garden.

Margo Tobar, of Port Germein Heritage, Arts and Tourism, said the stone building at the campus was not heritage-listed and could be demolished if the site was sold.

“This school belongs to this community, not the state – sorry, Dan,” she said.

The Recorder’s Greg Mayfield asked Mr van Holst Pellekaan to reveal the “book value” of the site. The politician said he did not know this and could find out what it was for the gathering if they wished.

An unofficial estimate of the value of the site is thought to be $330,000.

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