FULL development of the Cowes Revitalisation Project has been delayed after the Bass Coast Shire Council opted out of going to tender for designs due to a lack of finances.
In a move that surprised community members seated in the gallery, Island Ward councillors Cr Rothfield and Cr Fullarton voted against putting the designs for the Cowes Cultural Centre to tender.
A modified version of the original motion, focusing on putting design plans for the jetty triangle project to tender, was voted on by a majority of councillors.
Island Ward councillor, Michael Whelan, pushed for council to commence the tender process.
“This is a significant project for Cowes and Phillip Island,” Cr Whelan said.
“This is a game-changer project, and it should be supported. Cowes needs an investment now.
“I still maintain that it’s time to move forward with this project. This is something like the sixth master plan for the cultural centre.”
The Cowes Revitalisation Project involves three projects: the jetty triangle, the Cowes Cultural and Community Centre, and the Transit Centre all day car park.
“We need to get this project shovel ready, and get on with it. If we sit on our hands again, we’re going to be a laughing stock,” Cr Whelan said.
“We face serious reputational risk if we defer this yet again.”
Deputy Mayor Cr Brett Tessari voted to move forward with the jetty triangle component of the project, and to leave the Cowes Revitalisation Project for the future.
“We should move forward with the jetty triangle first,” Cr Tessari said.
Other councillors from the Bunurong and Western Port wards agreed.
“This is a fantastic project, but I’ll be upfront. I don’t want my only legacy to be a huge debt to the community,” Cr Bruce Kent said.
Cr Les Larke cited concerns for the council’s current financial situation as a reason to not move forward with the project.
“The financial information presented today requires further explanation,” Cr Larke said.
“Including the reasons why the Federal funding application was unsuccessful. The present and projected financial sustainability of council across key financial ventures presents reason for concern.
“In my assessment, when compared to other large shires, this council is underperforming. The council’s financial sustainability is at risk.”
Councillors voted in favour of Cr Tessari’s alternate motion to move forward with the jetty triangle component of the project, and to present a report to council detailing options for progressing with the cultural centre in the future.
Councillors were quick to dispel concerns that the proposed Cowes Cultural Centre would never come to fruition.
“This has never been a Phillip Island verses Wonthaggi issue,” Cr Tessari said.
“None of us here have said that we want to shelve this plan,” Cr Kent said.
The council will now commence the tender process for detailed designs and construction of the Cowes jetty triangle.