Left in the lurch
Tuesday, 12th February, 2013
By Erica Visser
St Patrick's Race Club has lashed out at City Council for allegedly retracting a $10,000 funding promise which has left it owing money and cutting local jobs and advertising.
The club's President, Margaret Corradini, said that she was left "devastated" after council informed her that it would not be supporting the event less than two months after she had been given the green light by a senior manager.
The club suffered financially after a race day washout in 2011 and relies heavily on volunteers.
In recent years, the major annual event had been granted funding from council.
"We were told by a council manager in early November that we should go ahead and book advertising interstate because the funding was sitting there for us in the marketing budget," Mrs Corradini said.
"We went ahead with the ad, had the video made and it was running in Adelaide when we received a letter saying we wouldn't be given the funding.
"I was devastated ... the problem is we would never have gone out and spent that kind of money; $10,000 is a lot of money for any organisation.
"A verbal contract is as legally binding as a written one."
As well as the $10,000, Council had historically provided rubbish bins in-kind, but this year it will charge $2,500.
Mrs Corradini said the club was aware of Council's financial concerns given a $7 million debt to mining company Perilya.
In late November, councillors voted to freeze all planned capital and special projects for this financial year.
The application for the donation to the club was rejected by councillors at a subsequent meeting.
However, Mrs Corradini said that Council should have honoured the commitment to the club.
Some councillors claimed they were not aware of the verbal commitment, but Mrs Corradini said that was not the club's fault.
"We can't be held responsible for a lack of communication between councillors and management."
As a result, Mrs Corradini said that the club would be forced to cut local advertising and the number of hired staff at the race meeting.
Mrs Corradini said the notion the club was well-off was ignorant and insulting.
"I'd like anyone who thinks that to perhaps come on board the committee ... every cent we make has to be put back into the community," she said.
"I think it's insulting that councillors would just assume the club was wealthy, no one phoned or asked St Pat's."
Mrs Corradini also criticised an idea by a councillor that the club approach local businessmen Gary and Steve Radford to "pick up Council's slack".
"The suggestion that the Radfords give us the money is really upsetting, especially when they've already been such a great contributor.
"The fact is Gary already works out there every weekend and gives us his time and his equipment."
Mrs Corradini said that the Club did not have time to pursue Council further, given the race meeting would be held in under five weeks.
However, Mayor Wincen Cuy suggested the business community should take over council's role in assisting the event.
"I would fully support that, I think the business community should be fully supporting and sponsoring St Pat's," he said.
"At the end of the day it's the pubs, clubs and restaurants that benefit.
"It benefits the community ... Council doesn't get any direct benefit from sponsoring anything.
"There has been a game changer that was in December, when you have something like the ($7 million debt to mining company Perilya) it changes a lot of
Meanwhile Council's General Manager Frank Zaknich flatly denied that a verbal agreement had been made.
"I doubt if that's what the individual would have said. The general manager doesn't approve sponsorship, Council does," Mr Zaknich said.
"They would have been given the verbal encouragement to submit an application, we can't give verbal approval for anything.
"There is no further funds to be allocated from the budget ... I can't fashion the funds.
"We would be happy to continue this conversation directly and not through the paper."
Mr Zaknich said that issue would not be discussed further by councillors unless the club decided to submit another application.
Deputy Mayor and Labor Councillor Darriea Turley said that she was "shocked" to hear that the club had such a tight budget.
"In the case of the St Pat's Race Committee, I think the biggest shock for me was their reporting on their financial state," Clr Turley said.
"However, this could provide an opportunity for the hospitality sector to assess how they support St Pat's that brings in direct benefits for their businesses."
Clr Turley said that the knock back was one of many difficult decisions Council had to make in the wake of the debt.
"This is an exceptional circumstance for the Broken Hill City Council and our community," he said.
"The cuts were across the board and as councillors it is one of the biggest challenges we have had to face."