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A breakdown of the cost overruns (and underrun at Palmers Island), not including roundabouts at the Carrs Drive and Treelands Drive intersections. Image: CVC

Yamba’s roundabouts: will councillors make a U-turn?

Geoff Helisma|

At next week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, councillors will be faced with a final decision regarding the construction (or not) of four roundabouts on Yamba Road, three of which could end up being replaced by traffic lights and one – the Yamba Road/Yamba Street intersection on Palmers Island – being abandoned.

The original estimate for the project, as presented to councillors – $4.4million of which is a NSW Government Restart NSW grant –, was $5,727,706; the estimate to be tabled at next week’s meeting is $12,232,713, which includes a 20 per cent contingency for “roundabouts to address some of the unknowns in this report”.

However, staff have also included an overall disclaimer in their report, warning that “the actual construction cost

[including the 20 per cent contingency]

could be higher than the estimate”.

“… cost estimates included in this report are just that and very few costs have been priced by the market and locked in.

“The key areas of uncertainty are the Telstra and NBN relocation costs and the construction contract value.”

Staff have recommended constructing roundabouts at the Shores Drive and Carrs Drive intersections, the installation of traffic lights at the Treelands Drive intersection and abandoning any traffic management at Yamba Street intersection on Palmers Island.

The cost estimate for this recommendation is $7,397,520, which still leaves a $1,478,814 funding shortfall.

Further, staff warned: “Due to the shortfall in funding, the projects have not been put to tender … however we have undertaken an [expression of interest] process and can proceed to tender for the roundabout solutions.

“This would allow the market value of the projects to be established and the true impact to be understood.

“It is not recommended to proceed to tender unless funding is likely to be committed to the projects.”

Also, it has come as a surprise to several councillors, the Independent has confirmed, that the initial grant application approved by the NSW Government included traffic lights at both the Treelands Drive and Carrs Drive intersections.

The Independent asked CVC general manager Ashley Lindsay: “How could a miscalculation of this magnitude happen when it was assessed for the purpose of gaining grant funding?”

“Initially, the grant application was based on [having] traffic lights,” Mr Lindsay said.

“This is the first time we’ve had detailed costings.”

The council still faces several hurdles to meet the staff’s recommendation (or whatever councillors decide) when it comes to completing the project by the January 2021 deadline, to meet the grant conditions, and finding the additional funding to complete the works.

“Due to the nature of the works involved in roundabout construction it is unlikely that the construction work of roundabouts at Treelands Drive, Carrs Drive, Shores Drive and Yamba Street could all be completed within the timeframe set by the Restart grant,” staff advise in the report to council.

“At this stage a formal extension of time request has not been submitted and there is a risk that an extension will not be granted and the grant funding withdrawn.”

Mr Lindsay said “preliminary discussions have been had” with Restart NSW.

“Now it’s up to councillors to make a decision; then we’ll have to negotiate [with Restart NSW].”

Extra funding is not likely to be forthcoming from Restart NSW, however, no matter what the outcome of councillors’ deliberations.

“Restart NSW … have verbally indicated that there is no additional funding available,” staff advise in the report.

However, staff recommend that extra funds could be sourced from CVC’s water and sewer funds to pay for any of those services affected by construction of roundabouts, “as ‘early’ renewal of those assets”.

“If the Palmers Island works proceed the services can be funded from existing water fund allocations.

“With Restart NSW approval it is possible to move the funding allocations within the Funding Deed.”