Council foots construction blow-out

Cr Fiona McAllister has spoken out about a theme of projects coming in above budget.

By Peter Douglas, Kath Gannaway

For the second time in just over three months, Yarra Ranges Council has approved additional funding to balance a shortfall for a major project.

In March, council approved more than $3 million in further funds for the Civic Centre redevelopment.

Yarra Ranges Council, at its 12 June meeting, now has backed an additional $400,000 to continue the anticipated Monbulk Community Sports Pavilion project.

The project went out to tender last year, with four companies all coming in above budget.

Ultimately, in addition to its initial $1 million commitment, council will put up the additional $400,000, which will see Rodine Australia Pty Ltd construct the project for almost $3.5 million.

Deputy Mayor, Cr Tony Stevenson, said council owed it to the community to see the project through to completion.

“This project has been years in the planning; these things don’t just happen overnight. There has been a lot of work by the community,” Cr Stevenson said.

“$200,000 has been raised by the community; the community has played a very important role.”

Cr Stevenson noted that in November, $1 million was confirmed through the Victorian Government’s Growing Suburbs fund.

He said all involved have tried to ensure a cost-effective project.

“We have still reached a point where corners have had to be but, but the building has not been compromised,” Cr Stevenson said.

“It came as quite a shock to very experienced people involved (with council), who had never seen tenders come in so far above the budget … the gap between the budget set and when it went out to tender.

“I think we have to help Monbulk … it was a pretty good effort for Monbulk to raise $200,000. In the long-term, it will return to us.”

Speaking on behalf of the Monbulk and District Community Opportunities Working-group (MADCOW), President Aimee te Boekhorst said the project deserved council support.

“The community project has been in the making for over seven years. It is a very needed and very welcome addition to our town,” she said.

“The whole Monbulk community has worked hard together to raise an incredible $200,000 towards the building and will also be contributing further in terms of fit-out.

“This facility will not only support the football, netball and cricket club, it supports community events through its large function room and commercial kitchen.”

Ms te Boekhorst said, once complete, the facility will support the development of girls’, and eventually women’s, football.

“We have demonstrated the interest of usage by over 20 local groups. Since we started talking about this project, it has been a buzz in the town,” she said.

“This has been a journey for our town and we are just looking forward to bringing this change.”

Despite the positivity surrounding the project, councillors Fiona McAllister and Jim Child, although supporting the motion, questioned another project coming in above budget.

Cr McAllister said she needed her objection to be heard, citing the Civic Centre shortfall.

“This is the second time in as many months an item asking for 10% over what it is budgeted for. It disturbs me greatly,” Cr McAllister said.

“We can justify it away, but we have a policy and we make decisions about how we spend money.

“I think, this trend, we need to find a way where we don’t have these projects coming back to us and asking for an additional 10%.”

Cr Child said he would be voting for the motion, too, but agreed with Cr McAllister.

“We are in a space where construction costs are accelerating all the time, but I think when we go out to tender … we probably have to look at this in a better way,” Cr Child said.

Cr McAllister, at council’s Tuesday 27 March meeting, voted against the increase in budget for the Civic Centre works.

At the time, she said the extra funds should be viewed in terms of how it could be used to help the community.

“While I think, in the scheme of things, $2 to $3 million doesn’t sound like much, but I think about the bang for our buck we get from investing back into our community,” Cr McAllister said.

Concerns about a Civic Centre blow-out were raised back in December 2017, with Cr Tim Heenan flagging that possibility.

“I just hope it will be value for money and the community space and office space will serve its purpose well into the future,” Cr Heenan said.

*Initial budget funding sources for Monbulk Community Sports Pavilion:

*Yarra Ranges Council – $1,000,411;

*Federal Government – The Community Development Grant Program ($600,000);

*State Government – Growing Suburbs Fund ($1,000,000);

*State Government – Community Sports Infrastructure Fund Election Commitments ($600,000);

*Monbulk Recreation Reserve Development Group ($200,000).