Shed lease war intensifies
Council weighs in on MACE and Men’s Shed ongoing lease quarrel
DURING the recent Mansfield Shire meeting council advised that Mansfield Adult Continuing Education’s (MACE) lease of the Mansfield Community Men’s Shed is now in over-holding.
MACE responded by media release, noting their surprise that the lease is now month-to-month.
“MACE is utterly flabbergasted that council’s decision has been communicated at their recent August meeting during public question time, yet MACE has not been formally advised of this decision,” said president of MACE’s board, Janene Ridley.
“We would have appreciated that council provide MACE the courtesy of advising us first before going public with this far-reaching announcement.”
Ms Ridley said that MACE has been the lessee of the community shed facilities since 2003 under a 10x10x10 year lease, and they believe this decision significantly impacts their operation of a number of community groups and local learning programs at the Erril Street facilities.
“The council’s decision means they can terminate the current lease at any time by giving MACE just one month’s notice to vacate, which would be devastating for many community groups who use the facilities so regularly,” Ms Ridley said.
MACE claimed the following community groups and classes use the facilities: the Mansfield Craft Group, the High-Country Quilters and the Men’s Shed, alongside their ‘learn local’ welding, furniture restoration and woodworking programs.
MACE said that the Mansfield Community Shed was built on council owned land in 2005 from federal and state government funding ($84k) with MACE contributing $12k to the project.
“What is also of great concern is that, if council does terminate the lease, MACE is required to remove the community shed buildings as that is what is stated in the lease,” added Ms Ridley.
“This will be so unfortunate for the Mansfield community.
“The only reason the community shed buildings were built was because MACE led the application process to secure government funding, put in its own funds and then project-manage the construction.”
The Mansfield Men’s Shed responded and does not share MACE’s views about any risk of losing community facilities.
“We think the MACE media release is unnecessarily alarmist and misses out on a lot of important facts,” said Bill Copley, president of Mansfield Community Men’s Shed Inc.
“The shire is supportive of the continued use of the Men’s Shed as a community facility.”
The Mansfield Men’s Shed said MACE entered into the lease on their behalf because at the time they were not incorporated, but since they became an incorporated association in 2013, MACE has not agreed to transfer the lease to them, so they asked council to grant them a direct lease.
During public question time at the recent council meeting, Mr Copley said they believed the Men’s Shed was the beneficiary of an auspice agreement with MACE.
Mr Copley further noted the idea of a Men’s Shed was developed by the late Don Hodges and it was his intent that the shed also provide space for a ladies quilting or craft group.
Don’s wife Barb was an active quilter, and Mr Copley noted the Men’s Shed remains supportive of the ladies quilting and craft group and other community groups continuing to use the shed.
When asked about the prospect of the removal of the shed if the lease was terminated, Mr Copley said, “We think that’s ludicrous.
“We have asked the shire to grant us a new lease which would include a lease of the buildings.
“With the benefit of a direct lease, the Men’s Shed has got a lot more good work to do for Mansfield.”
MACE said they have tried a number of avenues to clarify the lease situation with council, but council seemed unwilling to discuss it with them.
Mayor Mark Holcombe advised that he and chief executive officer Kaylene Conrick met with MACE earlier this year to discuss this issue.
“At that meeting, I informed MACE that the lease was in an over-holding position,” said Cr Holcombe.
“This is a legal position determined by the lease arrangement - it was not a decision that the council made at the time and no decision about the lease has been made since.
“The matter is subject to a report at the next council meeting.
“We understand that there is a dispute between the Men’s Shed and MACE about that lease.
“We have worked to assist both sides to try to resolve that issue for 18 months.
“Unfortunately, we have not seen a resolution between the two community groups.
“MACE and the Men’s Shed are both important community groups and Mansfield Shire is grateful for the work they do to enhance our community.
“We hope that they can resolve their differences for the benefit of our community and we will continue to support both groups to the best of our ability.”