The Inner West Council’s 2021 infrastructure budget lists an upgrade to the Balmain Town Hall as a priority project, with $6.8 million of funding allocated to improving community centres across the Inner West.
Founding Creative Director and Producer of My Kind Co. Lisa Tateman says she wants to see the building brought back to life.
Tateman was involved in My Kind Co.’s Queen Bees of Balmain exhibition, presenting a contemporary design proposal within the heritage building.
“The library really must address its spatial planning in the limited footprint and also make more use of the two outdoor spaces. A large section of the space is too dark and greatly unused,” Tateman told the Independent.
In April this year, a combination of heavy rainfall and neglected gutters full of debris caused the Balmain Town Hall Meeting Room to flood.
Shetty understands that while the gutters were fixed, Council has not performed any remediation work on the walls, which were soaked with water.
“Back in 2009, the Balmain Town Hall underwent its most recent major refurbishment. Nothing significant has been spent on the town hall for 12 years,” Shetty told the Independent.
“It’s just a matter of spending the money where it needs to be spent.”
Shetty expressed that her petition prioritises basic Council infrastructure and maintenance over huge projects on the hunt for media coverage.
“For the last four years, the Mayor has had a staff of PR, media and policy people that has cost in excess of $550,000 per year.
“The Council has focused on huge projects like the $40 million Marrickville library and the $40 plus million Ashfield pool which are positive projects but any focus on basic council infrastructure seems to have been lost.”
Marrickville Ward Councillor Victor Macri was influential in the 2019 opening of the Marrickville Library, saying that money spent on the project was worthwhile, especially seeing as it has paid off with international recognition for Council.
Macri believes that by securing the funding through public-private partnerships (PPPs) Council can continue to ‘think big’ when it comes to libraries. He said it was disappointing that the Greens did not support PPPs.
“That’s where ideologies get in the way of good outcomes.”
But Shetty says the Balmain Library project is different.
“The Greens on the former Marrickville Council pushed to make sure that the community got something great on a deal that was already done and was going to make developers a lot of money.”
Balmain Ward Councillor John Stamolis agreed with Shetty’s sentiment.
“At this stage, I do not want to see the selling off of important assets. In terms of Balmain, we’d be taking up opportunities for increasing public usage rather than any other alternatives.”
Where Shetty, Macri and Stamolis agree is that the nature of libraries is changing and that Council should accommodate for this change, starting with Balmain.
“The word library, it’s a stigma to what they are. They’re not libraries anymore, they’re community hubs,” said Macri.