Maclean Services Club says offer in the offing
Maclean Services Club has fired off a strongly worded letter to members in response to a potential sale of their venue.
Following news of a $1.3 million offer for Maclean RSL Club, Maclean Services Club chief executive Stephen Fraser has penned an emotional appeal to members, revealing they “will make a serious and competitive offer” for the site.
The letter, sent to all services club members and the Maclean Business Chamber, focuses on its history within the Maclean community and the value of it remaining a services club.
The Maclean business looking to purchase the site is Riverview Funerals and their offer is subject to a change of site use agreement with the council.
Members of the Maclean Services Club do not have a say in the sale of the land by the RSL sub-branch.
“I am concerned for the people of Maclean – this club property belongs to you,” Mr Fraser said.
“The club has always expressed the goal of purchasing the building and we will make an offer to the sub-branch.”
The letter ups the ante over the sale with some strong words directed at the sub-branch, including the suggestion it had “no loyalty” to the club that had paid rent, invested in facilities and supported them on Anzac Day.
“The club provided catering and beverages to the sub-branch members at a discounted rate of 35 per cent, another expense this club paid for – no thanks and no consideration,” the letter said.
An unsecured loan the services club said was given to the sub-branch 15 years ago was listed as one of a series of “issues” that Mr Fraser said needed to be addressed before any offer was made.
“The unsecured loan, which has been included in the club’s audited annual reports for 15 years, is a legitimate transaction,” he said.
Maintenance and long-term repairs were also listed as ongoing issues.
However RSL sub-branch president Stephen Walton ruled out a negotiation on the unsecured loan and said the letter made many “misleading claims in its appeal to people’s emotions”.
“Considering whether to sell or retain the property, we knew that retention would require a substantial investment to maintain the building, which we would be unlikely to recoup given the club’s history of operating losses,” he said.
“We determined that as a charity we could not risk funds meant to support our veterans.
“Talk of an outstanding loan owed by the sub-branch to the club is simply wrong as anyone can see in the club’s audited accounts.
“If the club makes an offer, neither a ‘loan’ or any other precondition to a sale will be considered.”
The stoush comes at a delicate time for Maclean Services Club, which has endured weeks of no income due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Fraser said the forced closure had been difficult but the safety of the club’s members was paramount.
“It has been a difficult time to keep the spirits up of all the staff and membership who are looking forward to returning to their social meeting place,” he said.
“Yes, there are some sleepless nights, as you feel for the community.”
He confirmed the club had made a request for rent forgiveness and were currently in negotiations with the Maclean sub-branch.
“Without rent forgiveness, it takes away our cash component, putting pressure on all that are working so hard to ensure that the venue is repainted and cleaned,” Mr Fraser said.
RSL NSW chief executive Jonathan Black said the RSL NSW Board was concerned about the extensive impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and a system had been set in place to manage all requests for rent waivers.
“Recognising the important role community clubs have for supporting veterans, especially in regional and rural locations, (the board) immediately agreed to a policy for rental deferral for tenanted clubs,” Mr Black said.
“The board also delegated to the CEO to manage deferral of rents but reserved its decision-making on rent waivers or rent forgiveness because it involves charitable funds forgone.
“It is RSL NSW’s understanding this negotiation (between the club and sub-branch) has not concluded, so a proposal has not yet been prepared for RSL NSW Board’s consideration.”
Mr Black also said late last week they received a letter from the club requesting an opportunity to submit a proposal to purchase the property.
“In respect of this (RSL NSW) postponed a meeting to give an opportunity for the club to submit such a proposal but made it clear it cannot fetter the current commercial process to sell the property that is under way,” he said.