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$600k spend on detailed pool design too much for councillors to bear

Despite extensive consultation and planning over the past four years, to develop a master plan for a future Grafton Olympic Pool complex, the estimated $600,000 price tag to produce the drawings was a step too far for the majority of Clarence Valley’s councillors.

At last week’s council meeting, staff advised councillors that $600,000 was needed to produce a detailed design and associated documentation for the master plan.

“The phases include a schematic design, detailed design, tender documentation to construction ready level,” staff wrote in the business paper.

“The production of these documents will enable the project to be in a good position for funding opportunities and ensure the infrastructure issues are addressed.

“The detailed design works involve specialist fields including architectural design, structural engineering, as well as hydraulic and electrical engineering areas of expertise.

“The price-estimate received [$1.35million] was 7.5% of the total project costs [$18million], however, it is envisaged that an allocation of $600,000 be approved [for inclusion in the budget] and the procurement of these services is tendered to ensure the best value.”

Councillors Baker, Novak, Clancy, Toms and Ellem voted against proceeding with the plan – Cr Lysaught was absent.

Councillors’ quotes

Cr Jason Kingsley: Based on the previous time this was before council, I was the loan soldier [advocating the inclusion of a dive pool] … but just for the record I’ll go in to bat for the kids.

“…If we spend $18m on a facility and only have lap pools … [we are] not targeting the users … there’s nothing entertaining … we are the fun police.

“I’ve said it before … the council will not pay for this … it will not come from ratepayers’ pockets … it will be funded by state or federal governments.”

Cr Richie Williamson: “It all started with closing the Ulmarra pool, with the proviso that we upgrade the regional facility … and there are long term plans for the South Grafton pool, [too].

“I don’t think any of us will be sitting here when [the new Grafton pool] is built … I expect it will be a staged upgrade … but you do have to have some vision and you do have to put long-term strategic plans in place.

“…At this point the long-term strategic plan is worth supporting … these are long, long-term documents.

“The Grafton Water Front Precinct plan has been here ever since I’ve been at this joint.
“If there’s no long term plan, it will never happen.”

The Grafton Water Front Precinct plan was approved in 2011 and the subject of a $6.5m election promise by Page MP Kevin Hogan in April 2019.

Cr Karen Toms: “It is an awful lot of money … it was supposed to be $1.3m and staff slashed it to $600k … but it’s still a lot of money, as is the $18m … and we are supposed to be finding savings, not building new things.

“… To be talking about a dive pool for younger users … you’re talking about having fun and jumping off and doing silly things like that … not for diving and the Olympics.

“…Really, is that really what you are saying?

“Even if we do not pay for it, it is the taxpayers of Australia.

“…Saying we are not going to pay for it … sorry but I cannot support it.”

Cr Peter Ellem: “I think we are now up in the stratosphere … the quote for detailed designs was $1.3m … then staff [got it] down to $600k, and I’d take it down to $500k if I had my way.

“…But like the deputy mayor [Jason Kingsley], I agree in the long run it will be the feds with state assistance paying for the $20m-plus development.

“…But I think even at $18m, the lap and play pools and low level diving pool would be enough.”

Cr Deborah Novak: “I can’t justify spending the money … on the concept plans for the pool.”

Cr Greg Clancy: “I think this is a massive [proposed] spend … there are still a lot of costs for the council and the community, in terms of maintenance and upkeep.

“I’m not supporting this at this stage … maybe in the future when things settle down.”

Cr Jim Simmons: “It seems the only way the facility will be funded is by state or federal grant money.

“…I just can’t understand why we would cancel that opportunity to have a purpose built diving pool when CVC won’t be paying if it does receive funding.

“…I’d like to draw attention to … if this motion doesn’t get, up I believe we can’t progress too much further on this.”

Cr Andrew Baker: …”A detailed document will be wasted if the project does not get a start for a couple of years.

“I cannot believe that a politician will chuck millions of dollar at a swimming pool.

“…This country will struggle to find money for essential infrastructure.

“It’s naive to think we put our hand up and the money comes … we will be living in a different world.

“…There’s no need to go down this path just yet.”