NSW grant hope for Urana Road oval project

THE fate of a $500,000-plus state government grant could fast-track a major upgrade of the Urana Road Oval, Lavington.

Oval tenants, Murray Magpies Football-Netball Club and New City Cricket Club, successfully lobbied the Albury Council to make improved changerooms, social area and canteen at the ground part of its 2014-15 budget.

User groups then approached the council after the release of the draft budget to bring forward $300,000 in council funding to start the project.

The council agreed to a $75,000 loan in the new budget but resisted pressure to shorten the three-year funding timeline that involves $600,000 from ratepayers.

The circuit breaker could be a $527,000 application to the NSW government clubs program — the council has agreed to look at the timeline again if it gains a grant.

User groups spokesman Anthony Baker last week told the council construction work couldn’t start until its first $300,000 was available in 2015-16.

The football and cricket clubs had hoped to start the project next April, but that was now expected to be delayed a year.

He said the users believed it made sense to have the council loan kick in year three “as we expect to have an operating asset by then which would allow us to begin generating funds to service the loan,” Mr Baker said.

“We are aware this request would have an impact on the budget bottom line in year one.

“But we would respectfully point out that by year three, the situation would be exactly the same for the council.”

The council has agreed to a loan of $150,000 with the second instalment falling due in 2015-16.

The increase of $225,000 in the first year as proposed by the user groups would have forced council to increase borrowings.

The council’s debt service ratio of 6.82 per cent places in the “satisfactory” category as assessed by the Local Government Department.

The clubs have said they would provide more than $350,000 of in-kind support and materials for the revamp and lobby the AFL and Cricket Australia for more funding.

Urana Road is one of the city’s most used ovals, but its sub-standard facilities force Murray Magpies to play some matches at nearby Lavington Oval.