Many commentators have applauded the council’s surprising change of mind at last week’s Bass Coast Shire Council Meeting, which saw councillors apparently bow to community pressure and give the nod to the Wonthaggi High Ball Courts after rejecting the project two months earlier.
Looking into the detail, the story may not be quite as simple as just a change of heart.
At the February council meeting, five councillors voted to reject what was a rushed motion, authorising council to apply for a $2 million grant from the Victorian Government Shared Facilities Fund, which would mean that council would have to make a co-contribution of $2 million for their part of the arrangement.
Until a couple of hours before the decision was to be made, councillors (nor apparently the administration) had no idea of the assumed costs of these extra two highball courts nor what contribution was being asked of the council.
Many felt that a dearth of rushed information was not the preferred or responsible way in which to make such a decision, and the result was that the majority of councillors rejected the motion.
The cost assumptions, which were presented to council just before the commencement of the council’s February meeting, were based on $2 million per court. One of which comes with the new school funding and two extra courts at a cost of $4 million.
The officer’s report also mentions that the scope of the highball facility was to comprise change rooms; storage for basketball, netball; administration areas, small social area and combined meeting space, kiosk, spectator seating and first aid room.
Upon the motion being defeated in February, the council administration has apparently gone back to the drawing board and when the subject rose its head last week, the price tag is now $6 million.
What has caused this extra $2 million increase? Looking at the detail within the officer’s report at the April council meeting, it relates to “community facilities through inclusion of meeting facilities, ancillary office spaces and car parking”.
Did not the February cost estimates already include this in the scope of the works?
Information on the car parking costs show that the proposed gravel car park will be negligible (less than $100,000), which means that there has been an extra $1.9 million added to the project for (extra) “meeting facilities and ancillary office space”.
I wonder how many smaller community associations across the shire, who have been battling for years to be supported with new club rooms, meeting rooms or office space, feel, when they witness, that in an instant, an extra $2 million can be magically found (however funded) for such a purpose, as has happened with this project.
Moreover, the question is, is this extra money allocated to this project, really covering ‘meeting facilities and ancillary office space’, or is this perhaps a way to surreptitiously correct a gross under estimation for the project cost, which was produced in such a rushed environment in February?
If the council had carried the motion in February – and the costs subsequently increased to this $6 million figure – who would have carried the extra burden of $2 million? I think we all know the answer to that one.
Perhaps the decision made in February was in hindsight the right decision.
John Swarbrick, Rhyll.