West Wimmera Shire Council has put a plan in place to alleviate some of the debt owed by Kaniva-Leeor United Football Netball Club for the Kaniva Community Hub project.
Before the decision was made at a council meeting held last year on December 16, the Kaniva-based club owed $160,000 to council.
Council acknowledged that the club was severely impacted in its capacity to repay the debt due to Victorian COVID-19 restrictions making face-to-face fundraising impossible.
At the meeting, councillor Tim Meyer moved that all money owed in payments for the calendar year 2020 and 2021 be written off, and no further interest be charged on the remaining debt for the balance of the loan.
Councillors Bruce Meyer, Tim Meyer and Tom Houlihan voted in favour of the motion, while councillors Jodie Pretlove and Trever Domaschenz voted against.
"I'm in favour of all volunteer organisations, and I think West Wimmera Shire now has got to change their attitudes and support to volunteer organisations," Cr Houlihan said.
"This business of volunteer organisations putting their hands in the air saying it's too hard and then the shire takes over, and so then the shire pulls the money in .
"You've got organisations that battle it out and struggling and they're not getting support from the West Wimmera Shire and here is an organisation that is struggling.
"I've been dealing with them silently for three months plus. I will continue to support volunteer organisations."
Councillor Pretlove spoke before the vote and said she fully understood the difficulties facing clubs and orgnaisations.
"Every decision we make needs to be an informed one," Cr Pretlove said.
"It needs to be justified from one end of the shire to the other.
"I fully understand that Kaniva-Leeor United club may need some assistance and I'm very willing to do that, to defer the payment that is due at the moment and believe it would be the most responsible decision for council to make sure the decision they do make is supported by further financial information from the club...I believe as council It's really important to have those extra supporting documents, which we're not going to have with this notice of motion.
"I support anyone who is struggling through COVID."
A further motion was made by Cr Domaschenz to have the hub project financial aid offset by rental received from Kaniva Racecourse Reserve.
"I know $40,000 came out of that fund originally as a community contribution to the original community hub business case, I'm assuming a similar amount is left there now," Cr Domaschenz said.
"To me it takes out the debate, the money is there, it's Kaniva's money. It's been raised and it should go back to that facility."
All councillors were in favour, except for Cr Houlihan, who abstained from the vote.
West Wimmera Shire Council mayor, Bruce Meyer, believes council's decision will make repaying the debt a lot easier for the football club.
"2020 has been tough enough for everyone living through the coronavirus lockdown and restrictions, let alone by organisations who are reliant on social events to fundraise for projects," he said.
"We believe council's decision to write off the debt for the next two years and remove interest charges, will help the football club and the Kaniva community recover a little without saddling them with a debt they cannot pay back immediately.
"We hope to see easier times ahead and a resumption of some of the fun and social fundraising we, as a community, know and love."
In November last year, Kaniva-Leeor United made the decision to participate in the Horsham District League for season 2021, leaving the Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara Football League (KNTFL).
While the club has given no indication that it will return to the KNTFL next year, the ability to play community sport without the fear of being locked out due to border closures will be beneficial for the club.
KNTFL president Peter McLellan said not being able to play community sport last year would have been tough for the club.
"Like every community club, they want to be able to play games - for Kaniva-Leeor United, being about to play their eight-odd home games a year is massive for them," he said.
Mr McLellan hoped the club will strongly consider moving back to the KNTFL in 2022.
Kaniva residents won't have to wait long to see sport return to the town, with the club set to host Kalkee in their Round 1 fixture on April 10.
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