POLL: Racing Orange hopes council pulls right rein on funding proposal

FORMER Orange Jockey Club chairman John Cook has come out in support of Racing Orange’s bid for $100,000 from Orange City Council to go towards track upgrades at Towac Park.

Mr Cook also criticised the process of allowing public comments before the council gives money to not-for-profit groups.

As president of Duntryleague Golf Club, Mr Cook requested Orange City Council convert a $110,000 loan into a grant.

But after overwhelming opposition from the community last June the council refused.

In December, councillors agreed to publicly display a proposal giving Racing Orange $100,000 of cash and in-kind work in 2013/14, and an extra $400,000 towards a $1.5 million track upgrade over the next four years, starting from 2014/15.

Councillors will make a final decision at Tuesday night's council meeting.

Two submissions were received, one from Mr Cook and one from James Sheahan Catholic High School principal Mark Pauschmann.

“Orange has to consider this as not just about racing, it’s about preserving a green space and preserving a community place ... If we keep losing facilities in Orange we won’t be able to move forward"

Mr Cook  urged the council and community to commit to racing in Orange, with the industry injecting millions of dollars into the economy, in his submission.

But he also made a veiled criticism of the council’s Duntryleague decision and said other sporting codes did not and should not have to go though the same public exhibition process when receiving money from the council.

“The process of public comment through exhibition can be extremely deflating for volunteers on various community sports clubs and organisations and generally doesn’t achieve the right or ethical result,” he said.

“Unfortunately the world today wants to tell us why we shouldn’t do things rather than looking for the positive outcomes.

“Inevitably it becomes political and the end result is not always the correct one.”

The council must advertise and call for public comment before giving money or in-kind support to community entities to comply with the Local Government Act.

Racing Orange chairperson Ellie Brown said it was important for ratepayers to have a say about where their rates were spent.

“You need to be transparent ... Orange has to consider this as not just about racing, it’s about preserving a green space and preserving a community place,” she said.

“If we keep losing facilities in Orange we won’t be able to move forward.”

Ms Brown said the group was buoyed by the support of Mr Cook and James Sheahan and would also submit a petition of more than 100 signatures in support of the funds.

“We’ve certainly been working with council, we’ve had meetings and been very open and honest and had frank discussions with councillors,” she said.

Cr Reg Kidd asked council staff to provide councillors with a list of all financial assistance given to Towac Park, according to a report for tonight’s meeting.

It shows the council has provided close to $247,000 of in-kind work and cash to the racecourse in the past 20 years.

Ms Brown said the majority of the funds were grant money the council had administered on behalf of other tiers of government to upgrade the facility.

“Our focus is on providing a multipurpose venue enjoyed by everyone,” she said.

“If Towac Park doesn’t grow the money invested would be lost to the community.”

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