WGAC go ahead
Community members cheered councillors when they voted five to three to accept the tender.
Council agreed to proceed with the project despite not securing federal government funding.
Financials for the project show the total cost will be $13.4 million which includes $4 million to be borrowed by council, $4 million from the state government and $1.15 million from council’s development contribution program. Council has already spent almost $820,000 on the project so far, leaving a $3 million deficit that, failing federal funds, will be funded by council in the next two budgets – taking the total ratepayers’ commitment to $9.4 million.
Any funds raised through local fundraising will lessen the burden on council.
The redevelopment will increase the arts centre’s seating capacity from 510 to 760 patrons.
From p1 It also will improve accessibility with a new lift connecting all four building levels; multiple access points to the auditorium and improved wheelchair access.
Auditorium and theatre upgrades as well as additional back of house facilities, expanded foyer and café are also part of the plans.
It is expected the arts centre will be closed until July next year. Staff will continue to be employed. Permanent staff will be redeployed within the current shire staff according to skills.
Nine community members addressed council on the arts centre redevelopment with eight of the speakers calling on council to award the tender and support the project.
One submitter, Bruce McDonald said he was in favour of the expanding the art centre’s seating capacity and associated works but he opposed a number of components in the project including demolition of the former engineer’s building (old library). He also called on council to return the centre aisle.
Moving council accept the tender from Building Engineering Pty Ltd, Cr Mikaela Power said council had to consider fiscal responsibility, the community’s vision and council’s social responsibility.
She said when the former Warragul Shire Council considered the original arts centre proposal more than 30 years ago, the then shire president Albert Farrington urged councillors to go the next step and she said it was no different for the current councillors. “Let’s be brave,” she said.
Cr Jess O’Donnell said council never expected a return from sports facilities but it still provided them because that was what the community wanted.
“This is not just about passion, it’s about community connection,” she said.
Cr Peter Kostos said the decision to go ahead with the redevelopment was made in the good faith of the previous council so it was up to this council to move forward and accept the tender.
Cr Darren Wallace said the current facility had a multitude of access and amenity issues and the redevelopment would complete the original vision.
Mayor Joe Gauci said the arts centre was one of the most recognisable buildings in the shire.
“It would be criminal to let this building get to the stage that it is not maintained.
“We need to plan for the future. It seems like a big spend now but it will be a spend for future generations,” he said.
Crs Power, Kostos, Gauci, Wallace and O’Donnell supported the tender while Crs Danny Goss, Keith Cook and Michael Leaney opposed the motion.
Despite previous participation in debate and decision making, Cr Tricia Jones said it had been pointed out to her that she may have a conflict of interest because of her close residential proximity to the arts centre.