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CEO’s report advised leaving Guilderton café lessee out of tender process

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The Shire of Gingin says claims the former Guilderton café lessee was discouraged from applying for a lease renewal are false but the Enright family was only invited to join the closed tender process when councillors amended an officer’s report to include them.

After a protest held in Guilderton on February 11, Shire of Gingin chief executive officer Aaron Cook told ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt that claims former cafe lessee Kerry Enright was discouraged from applying for a lease renewal were “absolutely incorrect”.

But back in May 2021 when the shire considered the lease of the Guilderton café and shop the officer’s report – written by Mr Cook – recommended a closed tender process involving just two businesses – Belgravia Health and Leisure Group and Cardrew Trading.

Prior to that the shire had received expressions of interest from three businesses – the then lessee the Enright Family Trading Company, Cardrew Trading and Belgravia Health and Leisure Group.

The officer’s report said the expression of interest submitted by the Enright family while proposing the highest annual rental, did not provide any business plan or proposals for amendments to how the business was currently being run and as such was not seen as a preferred option to move forward.

The report recommended inviting Cardrew Trading and Belgravia Health and Leisure to submit tenders for leasing of the Guilderton café and store for seven years plus an option of another seven years.

But an amendment moved by councillor Frank Peczka and seconded by councillor Frank Johnson resulted in the Enright family being invited to submit a tender along with the other two businesses.

President Wayne Fewster and councillor James Morton, who moved and seconded respectively a motion in 2018 against extending the Enrights’ lease, were among the councillors voting for the amendment, which was carried unanimously.

The reason for the amendment was the council said it was of the view that it would be preferable to invite tenders from all parties who submitted expressions of interest.

Mention was made in the May 2021 officer’s report that the lease for the Guilderton café and shop had been an on-going issue and the subject of debate with the current lessees due to some confusion resulting from perceived comments by previous council staff as to the possibility of granting an extension to the current lease.

“In 2018 this issue was resolved when an item was presented to council to consider an extension of the lease which was refused,’’ the report said.

“The lessee was informed of this outcome and since that time has continued to question council regarding prior perceived commitments.’’

When the Guilderton café and shop lease was discussed at the shire’s August 2018 meeting about two months after Mr Cook took on the role of chief executive officer it was a confidential item so it was discussed without media or members of the public allowed in the council chamber.

But the minutes say that councillor John Elgin moved an unsuccessful motion, seconded by councillor Frank Johnson that the council agree it was prepared to enter into a new lease agreement with the Enrights with respect to the Guilderton General Store based on the same provisions and general terms and conditions as the current head lease for a term of five years with the option of a further term of five years, subject to the prospective lessees being responsible for meeting all legal and other costs associated with the preparation and drafting of the new lease agreement and documentation.

The unsuccessful motion also sought to authorise the chief executive officer, in the event that no submissions were received to proceed with the preparation and execution of an appropriate lease document, including affixing of the common seal and acknowledge that, in the event that any submissions were received during the public submission period, the matter would be returned to council so that all submissions could be considered prior to a final decision being made.

“Councillor Fewster foreshadowed his intention to move a motion declining to enter into a new lease agreement in the event of the current motion being lost,’’ the minutes say.

Cr Fewster’s foreshadowed motion, seconded by councillor James Morton was for the council to decline to enter into a new lease agreement with the Enrights and for the current lease arrangement to remain in place for the duration of its current term, which was carried unanimously.

The recorded reason for the alternative motion was the council was of the view it would prefer not to give any consideration to future lease arrangements for the Guilderton General Store until such time as the expressions of interest process for the Guilderton Caravan Park was completed.

Yanchep News Online has seen correspondence between the Enrights and the Shire of Gingin dated 2017 relating to the Guilderton General Store lease where the shire says it has received an invoice for $2375.72 from its lawyers for all works undertaken to date in preparation of the draft lease.

The document said the account had been paid and the shire would appreciate reimbursement of the payment at the earliest convenience.

This article appeared on Yanchep News Online on 19 February 2023.

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