30th March 2020
Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has “endorsed [the] inclusion of $6,356,701 in the 2020-21 Draft Budget for the upgrade of the 2 Prince Street administration centre”.
The upgrade is the last piece of the CVC’s rationalisation project; however, it’s been a long time coming.
The council’s Fit for the Future submission in 2015 nominated 2018/19 for the project’s completion; CVC’s February 2018 Fit for the Future reassessment proposal nominated completion sometime in 2019/20.
It is now slated for completion by September 2021 when CVC’s current lease expires for the building at 42 Victoria Street, which is where staff will be accommodated during the Prince Street upgrade.
Councillor Greg Clancy got the ball rolling at the March 24 CVC meeting, moving a motion to “not include” the development in the forthcoming budget and defer a decision until after the election, which was due in September until the government announced it is deferring local government elections for a year due to COVID-19.
Councillor Clancy also called to have the project advertised “widely in the local area and call for submissions from the general public”.
He said he wasn’t against the project; rather, it was the timing of it coming to council for a decision that he objected to.
“This has been in the pipeline for some time,” he said, “and towards the end of this council’s term we are given this very large project to approve – I genuinely believe the public are not aware of it.”
Councillor Arthur Lysaught said he would “take great exception” to deferring a decision until the next council took office.
“The people in this room have enough brains” to make the decision, he said.
Councillor Andrew Baker said councillors were duty bound to follow through on the long-planned project.
“If any councillor can’t come to grips with this at this stage of their career?” he asked rhetorically.
“We’ve done the job; we informed the public, we’ve budgeted once already, I’m not going to hide from a making a decision.”
Councillor Jason Kingsley said he wasn’t “going to sit here on my hands and be afraid to make decisions”.
The mayor, Jim Simmons, said he “would like to see more emphasis in the general manager’s opening comments” when next year’s draft budget and operational documents “are presented to the public [so as] to really highlight the upgrade of CVC’s administration building in Grafton”.
“I urge members of the public to make the effort to put in submissions for consideration by council [at that time],” he said.
“The item was in the CVC’s integrated reporting documents last year and, no doubt, it has been in there since 2013/14,” however, he said, “I’m not sure if costings were ever presented to council.”
Councillor Karen Toms said that “this is the time” to approve the project’s budget and not be swayed by “a few people in the community finding out about it, [who] think it’s wrong”.
When it came to the vote, only Cr Novak supported Cr Clancy’s motion.
Following this vote, a lengthy debate on Cr Jason Kingsley’s amendment – to replace a one person lift/chair with “a fully compliant ramp in accordance with the Building Code Australia (no staircase or lift) to the proposed chamber/multi-purpose room” – ensued.
Only councillors Baker and Clancy opposed Cr Kingsley’s amendment, however, Cr Clancy’s vote was based on his failed motion.
Councillor Baker, on the other hand, was wary of spending up to $100,000 to accommodate the change and said “the architect could probably tell us more” about the likely cost before a decision is taken.
“This [amendment] says, ‘do the design and go ahead’,” he said
After one hour and 45 minutes of discussion, councillors, apart from Clancy and Novak, supported moving ahead with the project, including Cr Kingsley’s amendment: “Following approval from the Office of Local Government and endorsement of an amended detailed design [including changes to accommodate the ramp] by council’s Access Committee and Council, seek tenders for the construction of the works.”
Councillors will consider the amended detailed design “on or before the July ordinary council meeting for feedback from council’s Access Committee”.