Cr Keith Rhoades fears costs could blow out to as much as $130m for the Cultural and Civic Space.
Cr Keith Rhoades fears costs could blow out to as much as $130m for the Cultural and Civic Space.

Cr Rhoades warns real costs could blow out to $130m

REAL costs could blow out to as much as $130m for the Cultural and Civic Space one Councillor has warned.

Coffs Harbour City Councillor Keith Rhoades says there is a lack of transparency and the figure of $76.5m that is "constantly bandied about" is not a true reflection of the costs which will be ultimately born by ratepayers.

RELATED: Cr Paul Amos warned of similar blowouts over a year ago

"I have to ask myself: if I wanted to make something palatable to the purchaser - and in this case it's the ratepayer - I would tell them the rock bottom price," Cr Rhoades said.

"If you walk into Kmart and see a $175 saucepan reduced to $80 you're more likely to buy it but Council needs to be truthful, the process needs to be more transparent."

A key component of the funding model for the build is the sale of four council-owned properties. They are Council's Castle Street Administration Building, Rigby House, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum and buildings in Rose Ave.

But with the sale of the administration building and Rigby House stalled due to a lack of interest, an additional $17m needs to be borrowed to fund the project.

"Originally they estimated $46m in borrowing but now we have to add $17m to that, so the interest component just goes up.

"It's getting so much out of hand at the moment."

He says associated costs, like the estimated $2.6m for a purpose built storage facility for excess art gallery and museum items, should be combined into the total costings for the Cultural and Civic Space.

"All of these costs should be part of the Cultural and Civic Space figure. Like the upgrade to Riding Lane which is $5m alone."

The Cultural and Civic Space building will include the historic fig tree in Riding Lane.
The Cultural and Civic Space building will include the historic fig tree in Riding Lane.

The matter was up for consideration at Thursday night's meeting where a report from senior staff indicated that if Council does not push ahead with the original plan of selling assets and housing staff in the purpose-built Cultural and Civic Space, additional costs could be as high as $38 million over 20 years.

A submission in support of the project from Heather McKinnon was read aloud.

"The report you (Councillors) now have access to confirms that your plan to include all the different services into the Gordon Street site is the most financially prudent for the community," Ms McKinnon said.

"Politicians are not economists. Politicians are still using the same old debt fear at a time when every learned economist is pleading with us to invest.

"This simplistic fearmongering is not the way to build a city."

RELATED: Push ahead with plans or cop an extra $38m Crs warned

Cr Paul Amos with the support of Cr Rhoades, attempted to move a motion to proceed to finalising the construct contract or call tenders only when: 'either the fully costed project has secured not less than 40 per cent funding from the Federal or State government or it is a resolution of Councillors in their normal Council term.'

They also called for another report on the projected costings on the project elements of: 'total interest, legal fees, demolition of existing buildings on Gordon Street and the percentage of the proposed storage building to be used for art gallery and museum offsite storage.'

Instead Cr Sally Townley, with the support of Cr Tegan Swan, rejected the 40 per cent clause and raised an alternative motion which effectively puts on hold the sale of buildings until the development application for the project is determined.

A new library will be located within the proposed Cultural and Civic Space on Gordon Street.
A new library will be located within the proposed Cultural and Civic Space on Gordon Street.

General Manager Steve McGrath indicated that a decision on the DA is expected in coming weeks.

The alternative motion included a clause to: 'receive a report on the projected costings on the project elements of total interest, legal fees, demolition of existing buildings on Gordon Street and the percentage of the proposed storage building to be used for art gallery and museum offsite storage.'

The alternative motion was carried with the support of by Crs Denise Knight, Michael Adendorff and George Cecato with Crs Paul Amos, John Arkan and Keith Rhoades against.