It is now some four months since I became Secretary, so I thought I would update you on what’s been happening at SMSA and our prospects for the future.
COVID-19 has certainly impacted us as it has most Australians. Effective early April, the Government imposed the new Code which effectively meant tenants could not be evicted and, in addition, could have their rent substantially reduced with a portion completely waived. This has had significant consequences for SMSA as our revenue is dependent on rent recovery. Some of our tenants’ own revenue has been reduced to zero which will inevitably force them to review their medium term prospects for continuing their business. This situation, as you would appreciate, is widespread across Australia as we all come to grips with the impact COVID-19.
The more recent recurrence of the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria has reminded us of the importance of personal hygiene and safe distancing and the Board is especially conscious of the vulnerability of many of our members. As a consequence, when we decided to open up the library for limited access and browsing, we thought we were on the path to a more widespread opening up of business activity and adjusted accordingly.
Regrettably, this was short-lived and we have decided in the interest of all members to revert to the Click & Collect program and extend our opening hours to five days a week between 9:30am and 2:00pm. We appreciate many of you will be anxious to return books and may feel concerned about holding onto books that have become overdue. Please rest assured that we understand the unique circumstances we have before us and you may return these books when convenient. Your health and that of our staff are our primary concern,
Whilst the organisation is operating on restricted hours and capacity it has been a good time to progress with our building projects.
- As previously mentioned, the flat roof of our building has had a number of leaks, clearly evident on level 9. The waterproofing flexible membrane needs replacing and, at this writing, we have finally obtained a number of quotes for this significant expense. It is expected that within the next month, the selected contractor will commence work. This is expected to take three to four weeks to complete, depending of course on the weather.
- On the ground floor, we have submitted our revised plans to Council to build the new accessible toilet. We were required to apply for a Development Application (DA) due to the need to relocate an existing wall. This DA has been with Council for many weeks. Once approved, we expect to be able to commence work within a couple of weeks and anticipate a relatively short completion time. As we will be extending the existing toilet into the mail room, we have already relocated the mail boxes past the fire door adjacent to the lifts and are all set to commence construction, once the approval is at hand.
- The Mitchell Theatre has also received a great deal of attention during this period and our plan is to refurbish the seating with new seats (already ordered) and refinish the ceiling and stage. Given our plans to incorporate new technology to enable SMSA to reach a wider audience, we will also update our webcasting capabilities and lighting to suit. In the end, our aim is to have a new theatre which will be attractive to venue hirers, members and their guests to compliment the many excellent programs we have and will continue to hold in this theatre.
On another note, I know that many members come to SMSA via public transport. In fact, one of the features of SMSA is its proximity to excellent public transport. However, in recent discussions with the new parking operator of the Meriton building across the street from SMSA (First Parking), we are now advised that a $10 flat rate per day parking is available 24/7. Parking after 4:00pm (night rate) is just $5 flat rate and there is also a $5 flat rate all weekend. Given the COVID-19 situation, members may prefer to avail themselves of this convenient parking as opposed to taking public transport when visiting SMSA.
I am aware many of you are not able to be contacted via email. This could be as a result of your personal choice or the fact that you are not as yet familiar with email or IT generally. We are living in an increasing digital age and not knowing how to operate a computer or a smart phone will increasing become a disadvantage. This doesn’t just apply to not being able to use Government services or buying goods and services, it also severely limits the ability to source information or entertainment options. For instance, inability to trace ancestors and prepare detailed family trees or produce memorable photo books. Importantly, not being able to contact distant family members via a video call.
SMSA, in collaboration with Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA), can assist. They are conveniently located in our building and are particularly skilled in helping older people not familiar with modern information technology becoming computer literate, at your own pace in a friendly, fun and non-threatening environment.Please give me a call on 9262-7300 and leave your contact details and I’ll be in touch with further details as to available dates.
Many of you will be saddened to learn that Melanie Ryan, our Program and Communications Manager, has resigned effective 13th August to pursue new opportunities. Melanie has been with SMSA for eleven years and has been an important staff member and initiator of our programs and events over these many years. I am sure you will join me and the Board in wishing her every success in the future.
Finally, I would like personally to thank members for their patience in these difficult times, particularly for the many of you who have depended on much greater access to our library. We can only hope that this virus will very soon be under control once again as we thought we had and we can then once again provide members with increased access.ovide members with increased access.