Hall call

Discounted fees and charges for annual hire of the Swan Hill Town Hall Performance Arts and Conference Centre have been introduced by council following "disquiet" from users.

A debutante ball package that offers the features that most balls require at the Swan Hill Town Hall, with an overall fee discount of 60 per cent, has been announced by Swan Hill Rural City Council.

A debutante ball package that offers the features that most balls require at the Swan Hill Town Hall, with an overall fee discount of 60 per cent, has been announced by Swan Hill Rural City Council.

Early last year, the performing arts centre introduced a subsidy scheme for annual users, which attempted to strike a balance between community access to the town hall, and recovering the high costs associated with running such a facility.

However, after regular users raised concerns about the new scheme and the additional administration required for hire, a review was conducted.

Swan Hill Rural City Council director of community and cultural services Bruce Myers said council staff had since met with hirers one-on-one to discuss options and come to an agreement that worked for both users and the town hall.

"The town hall brings people together for events, concerts, weddings and balls, and it is important to maintain confidence in this council-owned community facility," Mr Myers said.

At council's December ordinary meeting, Mr Myers said it was "vital" that this situation was resolved by the introduction of a simplified fee structure which would streamline the booking and budgeting processes for community users.

"We also have to ensure that some cost recovery takes places so we don't overburden ratepayers with these costs," Mr Myers said.

He said the venue was expensive to operate, clean and maintain.

"Finding the balance between cost-recovery and community access is the ongoing challenge, and council proposed the introduction of a subsidy process to allow for a better understanding of the "true" cost of the venue for events, and to allow for an assessment of the level of subsidy," Mr Myers said.

"Regular users were not supportive of the proposed subsidy scheme, which requires paperwork and documentation; during consultations users acknowledged that prices will increase over time, but they strongly expressed their need to know the price for their events well in advance without additional administration."

Mr Myers said after listening to the concerns of regular users, council had introduced a range of packages for different users and users groups.

"For example, debutante ball organisers are one of the largest user groups, so we have added a 'debutante ball' package that offers the features that most debutante balls require with an overall fee discount of 60 per cent," he said.

Mr Myers told council the principles of the debutante package can then be applied to the other regular annual users of the venue, such as dance school recitals and school performances, in addition to one-off events.

Costs for a debutante ball, including rehearsals, necessary staff, cleaning costs and technical support are approximately $6000, and applying a 70 per cent discount to council fees and charges, and charging the full cleaning and extra costs brings the cost to local balls run by nonprofit organisations to $2500.

Local for profit hire will receive a 50 per cent discount, bringing the cost to $3500.

Built in 1929, the historic art deco venue underwent a major $3 million refurbishment in 2000-01, with the purchase and installation of new $415,000 technical equipment completed in 2013.

A review of the town hall capacity levels was also undertaken, with the current occupancy permit allowing for 860 to be within the entire complex.

The auditorium downstairs area can hold a maximum of 304, and the upstairs mezzanine provides seating for an additional 336.

The downstairs auditorium can be configured in different ways to suit a variety of event types.

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Monday's Guardian (January 15).

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