By Kirra Grimes

LEONGATHA business operators aren’t impressed with council’s handling of the $5.4 million Bair Street redevelopment, saying the timeframe has “blown out” due to “poor project management”.
Leongatha Business Association president Anthony Walls said businesses were frustrated by slow progress on the streetscape plans, and were beginning to doubt the project would be completed within its two-year timeframe.
Mr Walls, who owns a business on Bair Street, said contractors employed so far had been doing a good job, but questioned why civil works that were due to start in June had only recently been put out to tender.
He also highlighted a four-month gap between the completion of water works and the start of electrical works, with nothing happening in that period.
Mr Walls said he’d attempted to meet with South Gippsland Shire CEO Kerryn Ellis to explain that businesses were “suffering” due to the constant battle against “mud and slush” from dug up footpaths, but had had no luck so far, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“She lives in Melbourne, and that’s a problem,” he said.
However, council’s project coordinator Jareth Goss provided some answers, telling the Sentinel-Times last week that “the project is forecast to be completed in late 2021, as previously advised”.
He acknowledged there had been some delays in tendering the civil works due to resourcing, external approvals and design considerations, but said the civil works package was “on track to closely follow the electrical works as intended”.
He also confirmed that minimal works occurred in Bair Street between December 2019 and April 2020, but said this had been at the request of the business community.
“Business representatives requested a gap in construction following the water works to minimise impacts to businesses over the Christmas 2019 trading period,” he said.
The electrical works contract was awarded in early February 2020, but there had been delays during the tender evaluation and negotiation period due to the “complexity and significant value” of the contract, Mr Goss said.
“Council then worked with the contractor through materials ordering, site investigations, and road and service authority approvals before fully commencing on site in April 2020,” he explained.
“Electrical works for putting the power underground and installing new street lighting are progressing well and are on track to be completed around September 2020,” he said.
“The civil works contract – which includes stormwater, footpath and road pavement reconfiguration and renewal – is currently out for tender and closing on August 4.”
A separate landscaping contract – including garden bed development and planting, tree planting, street furniture installation, and irrigation – will be developed and awarded later in the project, Mr Goss said.