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Valmar on track to transform RSL

Valmar Chairman Roy Humphries and CEO Hugh Packard in what will be the new central Valmar building.

PLANS to transform the old Tumut RSL Club into the new Valmar central office are on track to be submitted for approval at the end of this month, and CEO Hugh Packard is optimistic that remodeling will begin soon after.

“We’re close to being able to lodge the plans to Council, the deadline for lodging that is the end of the month,” Mr Packard said.

“We have been working with a company we engaged from Wagga, and we met [last week] to ensure we all have a commitment to and understanding of the deadline we’re working towards.”

Mr Packard is confident that if the plans get the council’s go-ahead, the new office will be functional later this year.

“Once they (Council) rule on that, we’ll be able to move very quickly. I would hope that by next financial year we will have core functionality,” he said.

The Tumut RSL sub branch purchased the land for the club in September 1949, and fittingly, it will be almost 70 years to the day that Valmar hopes operation will be underway from their new central office.

In purchasing the building, Valmar has agreed to swap places with the sub branch, allowing them to transform the old RSL Club into a brand new office headquarters while the sub branch relocate to the Valmar office in Carey Street.

“Currently we’re operating out of five separate buildings, so all staff will collocate in the one building. We will have more space, and we hope this will facilitate more direct and efficient interaction between staff,” Mr Packard said.

“We’re very excited with the concept that the consultants have drawn up, and without too much work, the building will be reshaped into a different facility to suit our needs.”

The sub branch have already completely moved out of the building, taking the last piece of RSL memorabilia, the Jack Ryan diorama, with them on Thursday.

The eternal flame and Tumut Honour Roll will remain in the old foyer of the Club, which will double as a meeting room and gallery adorned with photos of different Valmar activities, but will not be available to the public.

“We’ve agreed to retain the shrine. We talked about it when we first considered buying it and we felt that it’s part of the history of the place, so we felt it better to retain it rather than go through what would be a difficult job to relocate it or to rebuild it,” Valmar Chairman Roy Humphries said.

Mr Packard said that Valmar would close off entry from the front of the building due to issues with accessibility.

“The current foyer doesn’t suit well because of the access issues. The plan is to convert the driveway up the side of the building into a named private laneway, named after the founder of Valmar, Gwen Brown. People will drive up there and that will be where the access will be, at the ground level.”

Parking will not be a problem, as the building boasts 65 parking spaces.

The cavernous auditorium will continue to function as such, and Mr Packard said Valmar will change very little about the space, allowing them to allocate resources to other areas of the building.

“We plan to keep the auditorium much the way it currently is, and it is our intention for it to be a facility that can be rented out for public use,” Mr Packard said.

“We’ll probably do it up a bit and make it a bit more functional, but the aim is to keep it so that it can be used by the town and by us.

“It’s a massive space, but there’s nothing else in Tumut like it, so we’re hoping to retain that. My aim is to have it used as some sort of a conference and function centre, where it also provides employment for people with disabilities in a support role – the cleaning, setting up tables, that kind of thing – so it can be another little business arm.”

The commercial kitchen has already been stripped out, but Valmar has no need of that facility with Meals on Wheels conveniently located nearby.

“We have a fully functioning commercial kitchen across the road through Meals on Wheels. Any catering that would be done for here will be done at Meals on Wheels,” Mr Packard said.

What was once the Club’s restaurant will be the centre for Valmar’s aged care services admin team, while the bar room will become the hub for administrative functions including finance, payroll, client systems, property management, and vehicle fleet management.

The bar and walk in freezer will be gutted, the wall behind the bar taken out and replaced with more office space, allowing more windows to be put in to increase the amount of natural light and ventilation.

“At the moment our administrative functions are all operating in a bunch of dispersed different little boxed in areas, but they are all going to be situated in the one area,” Mr Packard said.

The second level will be taken up by Valmar’s HR and corporate offices, and the company plans to transform the RSL library into a boardroom that will also be available for public use.

“There is always a shortage of meeting rooms in town, so if community groups want to use it, we’ll have a number of meeting rooms that can be made available,” Mr Packard said.

Mr Packard said that the Club’s two bowling greens are also full of potential for Valmar.

“In the fullness of time, we figure that they’re well located to build something like accessible housing for people with disabilities and frail aged people. We’d probably be able to fit six or seven units in there, but that’s way in the future.”