Cockburn Gazette - - OPINION -

THE exit deal done by coun­cil with the Dock­ers looks dumb, and dumber the more it is in­ves­ti­gated.

The Dock­ers got the land for their $1.5 mil­lion head­quar­ters at Fre­man­tle Oval for a pep­per­corn rent, and the mem­bers paid for the build­ing. The Dock­ers com­mit­ted to a lease that still has 37 years to run. Fre­man­tle Coun­cil loaned them $2 mil­lion in­ter­est free for ap­porx­i­mately two years. They should not be re­warded for break­ing their lease.

As part of their com­mit­ment, the Dock­ers have been spend­ing ap­prox­i­mately $240,000 a year main­tain­ing the Oval.

Fre­man­tle Coun­cil's deal lets them off $8.88 mil­lion in main­te­nance costs at to­day's fig­ures, though with the AFL club gone the level of main­te­nance is likely to be poorer.

In ad­di­tion, coun­cil will pay the Dock­ers $1.5 mil­lion, plus $500,000 for pro­mot­ing the club (and $200,000 to St Pats on the Stan Reilly site next door so they can leave Fre­man­tle and go to Safety Bay).

Fre­man­tle Coun­cil have of­fered South Fre­man­tle Foot­ball Club, who own $3 mil­lion worth of land and build­ings at the Oval, a 10year li­cence with a once-off car­rot of $50,000 to sur­ren­der their 37-year sub lease.

But why would Souths, who man­aged the Oval for 100 years, sign such a deal when they earn ap­prox­i­mately $90,000 a year for the rest of the 37-year lease (ie $3.33 mil­lion as against the $90,000 be­ing of­fered).

None of the mil­lions about to be spent would be nec­es­sary if coun­cil had not de­cided on a brand new and un­nec­es­sary ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing.

The Fre­man­tle So­ci­ety does not be­lieve there has ever been a prop­erly ar­gued case for a new $50 mil­lion ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, es­pe­cially since large-scale amal­ga­ma­tions are not go­ing to oc­cur.

Coun­cil staff have been un­able to show the Fre­man­tle So­ci­ety a sin­gle re­port that jus­ti­fies the de­mo­li­tion of their build­ing, built by the same high qual­ity builder who built the Port Author­ity tower.

The MOU (Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing) with Sirona Cap­i­tal came to coun­cil in 2011. Two coun­cil­lors, Haney and Dow­son, re­fused to vote for it as it was con­sid­ered by them such a bad fi­nan­cial deal. The deal did not stip­u­late the de­mo­li­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing, but stated that there could be a re­build or re­fur­bish­ment.

The Fre­man­tle So­ci­ety wants a full and frank pub­lic dis­cus­sion led by coun­cil and lis­tened to by coun­cil over King's Square, to in­clude the use and de­sign of the square, the $550,000 pro­posed play­ground, the dy­ing More­ton Bay trees and the is­sue of whether we need a new ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing or not.

King's Square should be the beat­ing heart of Fre­man­tle. It de­serves the best pos­si­ble out­comes. JOHN DOW­SON, Pres­i­dent The Fre­man­tle So­ci­ety.

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