Benalla’s new Civic Centre is nearly complete, marking another significant step in a reconfiguration of council buildings that will deliver the Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop Learning Centre later this year.
“This clever use of existing structures, funded largely by State and Federal grants, and at minimal cost to the community, will provide a facility for which the community has been crying out for literally decades,” said Benalla Rural City Council Mayor, Cr Barbara Alexander. Cr Alexander stood for council in 2008 largely to support those in the community advocating for a new library.
The Customer Service Centre was completed earlier this year, and Councillors and senior staff will be accommodated in the new Civic Centre, formerly the Shire Offices in Mair Street. The Learning Centre will be situated in the refurbished building of the former Civic Centre in Fawckner Drive.
Of the $4.583 million the project will cost, the Council was successful in securing $1.3 million from the Federal Government, and $2.2 million from the State Government. The remaining $1 million was funded by Benalla Rural City Council over the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 financial years, with no additional funding required from the 2013/14 capital projects program.
The refurbishment of the new Civic Centre, built as Shire Offices 55 years ago, is due to be completed by the end of July. The work has presented some challenges due to heritage constraints, particularly the retention of the distinctive “butterfly” roof line, and work to match paint colours and fittings has been painstaking. New windows, a new roof and insulation and the majority of the internal finishes have now been completed, and the painting, electrical and concrete works are nearing completion.
The interior of the former Civic Centre in Fawckner Drive is almost unrecognisable, with the interior opened up into large floor spaces overlooking the foreshore of Lake Benalla, and an extension of the building on the west side has expanded the floor space to 950m2, triple the size of the old library. The remaining work, including flooring, internal fit-out and the exterior, are expected to be completed in time for the opening of the Learning Centre in the middle of October.
“This will truly be a facility for everyone,” Cr Alexander said. “As well as having vastly improved space for books and reading areas, the computer and internet access will dramatically improve the opportunities in Benalla Rural City for online training and learning. The meeting rooms and an area focused on young people will provide more space for community initiatives, and all of these amenities, including high care adult change facilities, will be accessible to everyone."
Image right: Mayor Cr Barbara Alexander (right) with Benalla Ensign Editor Libby Price.