By Claire Ottaviano
A LONG-STANDING financial feud between the City of Swan and Zahara Dance Company (ZDC) has been put to bed after council voted to write-off more than $20,000 of unpaid debt allegedly owed by the Midland not-for-profit.
At the August 11 special council meeting, Cr Ian Johnson tried to have the debate on his confidential motion to wipe the debt opened to the public, but the request was lost and the decision went behind closed doors.
In an earlier deputation to council, ZDC artistic director Tabetha Vagliviello denied the multi-cultural dance company was liable to pay fees charged for outgoings on its former Stafford Street property.
“We were told the rent would be $15,800 per year, that’s what we were quoted when we signed the lease, but that was not the true case of it,” she said.
“In 2014 the leasing agent changed, the Shire representative changed and the rules changed into something we didn’t originally sign up for.
“When you add on electricity and other things it ended up being quite a bit more which we weren’t able to substantiate.”
The disputed debt includes electricity costs, emergency levy, Shire rates and air conditioning repayments all of which, with the exception of the air-conditioning, were considered outgoings not included in the original lease agreement.
Ms Vagliviello said the company had also taken on up to $10,000 of repairs to the premises including painting, plumbing and electrical work and rubbish removal.
Prior to ZDC vacating the premises in December 2019, Cr Johnson tried to have the dance studio’s rent reduced from $1500 to $100 a month at a special council meeting in October of that same year.
The reason for the motion was to allow ZDC to continue to provide community services in Midland at a rent they could afford.
The motion was lost 6/8 with councillors against arguing it could set a precedent.
“There’s no hidden money anywhere and now the little amount we have fundraised for has been wasted on lawyers,” Ms Vagliviello said.
They currently have $75 in the bank.
“ZDC is a not-for-profit, all the money that goes into our bank account is fundraised by either sausage sizzles or chocolate drives and the odd paid performance,” dance company member Melissa Galea said.
The council resolution to write-off the debt is subject to ZDC dropping its countersuit against the City.
Councillors debated for more than an hour before unanimously supporting the motion.