10 lanes down to 8: Council admits potential to not be able to deliver on Mackay Park

Next Tuesday will see Eurobodalla councillors updated on the current status of the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (BBRAALC) on the southern precinct of Mackay Park. In the staff's preamble they state of the $51m in grant funding ($25m from the Australian and $26m from the NSW Governments) which they have secured that: "This funding, for the first time, has placed the provision of such services within community’s reach. Without this funding, the community could simply not afford the facilities, and therefore Council is in a position never before realised, and unlikely to ever be realised again." Within the Community's reach ???? Is that alarm bells I hear? The report contained in next week's agenda to Councillors says "Whilst significant reductions in cost have been achieved through the design process, further work will be required through the detailed design stage to attempt to further reduce the capital cost. In addition, Councillors have been briefed on, and will need to consider, additional funding sources for the project." What? They have $51 million dollars. Now they might have to consider additional funding sources??? The first thing you notice with the CONCEPT D plan (below) being presented to Councilors is that Council have amended their scope to include consideration of a 25 metre pool comprising of only 8 lanes and not the 10 promised. "The recommended design outcome, in response to capital cost pressures, is a 25 metre pool that can be used as an 8 lane pool for competition swimming (lane width of 2.5 metres) or can be reconfigured to be a 10 lane pool (lane width of 2 metres). This option provides a greater degree of flexibility while enabling the pool to meet the requirements for short course championships. The black lines in the pool will be configured for the 8 lane layout." With that statement it is clear that Batemans Bay has been well and truely shafted. If you look at the original Concept A (below) that was put out for community comment you will see that the proposed 25 m pool is 25 M SQUARE - that is 10 x 2.5m lanes - Batemans Bay is now waking up to having been well and truely shafted by first losing their 8 lane 50m pool that was reduced to a 25m x 10 lane pool that has now been reduced to a 25m x 8 lane pool.

Above: Concept A had a pool of 25m by 10 lanes this was endorsed by Councillors in 2018 as part of Mayor Innes' Mayoral Minute March 27th 2018 to support the inclusion of a 25m by 10 lane lap pool as a key component of the proposed centre “We intend to deliver a centre with a 25 metre, 10 lane indoor pool". said Mayor Innes just six months ago on Tuesday 19 February 2019 As if by a means of justification to now short change the community from ten lanes down to eight the report to council next Tuesday says: "Throughout the design process, Council has been obtaining Quantity Surveying (QS) estimates of the capital cost of the design. Councillors have been briefed on each of these cost estimates and iterations of the design. The capital cost estimates have been used to inform the design process and manage the likely capital cost of the development. This has been challenging, given the strong construction market currently in existence, which is resulting in significant cost escalation across the construction industry. Throughout the design process Council has also been considering potential operational models and operational costs." "Significant demand in NSW and across Australia has put upward pressure on the availability of both the demolition and construction workforce. This demand has also placed cost pressures on a range of raw materials, most notably steel and concrete. As a result of the increased demand and cost, there is increasing pressure to deliver the full scope of the development within an achievable budget" and here it comes..... "In addition, Councillors have been briefed on, and will need to formerly consider, additional funding opportunities for the project, especially in regard to providing for any contingency through the construction process." The community are now aware that Council intends to sell off the Batemans Bay Community Centre and the Information Centre and direct any profits from those sales into the flagging Mackay Park pool project. We also know they are selling of parks and reserves "deemed to be surplus to requirements" such as Pretty Point Park and now they intend to see off the Moruya Racecourse which is also categorised as Community for recreation use. Any and all proceeds of those sales can go directly to the proposed pool. In next Tuesday's report it also states: "As a result of recent media about the potential closure, sale or lease of the BBCC, Council has received a number of enquiries from parties interested in the purchase or lease of the facility. Given the above circumstances it remains the proposed position that Council close the BBCC, once the new centre is opened and look at opportunities to either sell or lease the site. " Council has offered the Otium Business case from Day One and have pressed ahead with it, quoting it openly to anyone and everyone stating that a 50m pool will cost $6.5m more rendering it unaffordable and using the assumptions in that business plan as projections of overheads and revenues. The Otium business case has been dissected and found wanting. So much so that Council promised to provide, with Concept D, the new reviewed financials that might offer clarity around more accurate operational costs and projected revenues to ensure evidence that the overall project was sustainable and affordable for a shire that is aging with a predominance of fixed incomes, unable to afford the anticipated future rate hikes to accommodate "unknown blowouts". In offering up Concept D as the next and FINAL plan Council says of the community's expected accompanying business case: "In order to ensure that Council’s ability to obtain the most competitive market prices is not compromised, it is essential that the financial detail and operating assumptions remain confidential."

Above: Concept D that will go before Councillors next Tuesday. This is enough to encourage anyone to have a very close look at the Concept D plan. It is clear from the CONCEPT D plan that the Mini Golf are gone (at an undisclosed price). It is clear from the plan that they have modified the building to now be single story. It is clear from the plan that many of the suggestions given at the Forums and Kiosks have not been reflected. The parking remains inadequate while the meeting rooms and community facilities are poor cousins to those existing at the Batemans Bay Community Centre and the 350 seat theatre still has no demand nor business case. Simply because you might build it does not immediately mean they will come... What we have in next week's staff report are several serious broken promises. Now there is an 8 lane pool. There is no business case, there is no evidence that the community can afford this project in the short term or long term and there is no evidence that this Concept Plan is to be returned to the community for comment. Announcing on April 24th 2019 that "now the money is in the bank" Councillor Innes told WIN News Illawarra "I'm delighted to say we have recognised that and in the next plans that are going to come out to the community there is an absolute area that will be shown to them clearly where a 50m pool MIGHT be put in, into the future." Well there is 'no absolute area' shown on the plan. Council's report however says: "Previous Council resolutions have required the design process to consider the potential for future expansion, specifically the potential to provide for a 50 metre pool and expansion of the theatre. The design process has identified space where a 50 metre x 5 lane pool could be provided along the eastern boundary of the site between the proposed aquatics hall and the theatre wing. This has been illustrated on plans presented to Councillors but is not contained on the attached concept plan, as the provision of a 50 metre pool does not form part of the development scope and remains outside the financial capacity of the project and the community." It is now understood that the location of a 50m pool was withdrawn as a backroom decision made by the Councillors, as they were advised that for the 50m pool to be included in the intended DA process it would raise community expectations, add additional costs and would complicate the DA that should only focus on what is intended to be built. And what of the 500 seat theatre? Council offers: "The current concept proposes 350 retractable seats plus 7 disabled seating positions. Any proposal to provide for future expansion of the seating capacity would require significant capital expenditure." And what of projected costs? The report says: " The design process is considering asset life and cost along with operational costs. Ultimately the new asset will have a depreciation cost that will impact on Council’s financial position, notwithstanding that the development is replacing an existing asset. At this point, it is possible to adopt a straight line depreciation assessment to get a broad indication of depreciation over say, the anticipated 50 year life of the building. This however does not account for those asset components that have a shorter asset life such as mechanical and electrical components." By estimates of the Otium business case the depreciation was $1.2m per year with projected loses of $790,000 per year average for the first 10 years Council's report is very coy about costs and transparency though saying: "If Council proceeds with this development there will be a competitive tender process for the construction. There is also likely to be competitive tender processes for the operation of the facility, or parts of the facility dependent upon which management model is adopted by Council. In order to ensure that Council’s ability to obtain the most competitive market prices is not compromised, it is essential that the financial detail and operating assumptions within these documents are kept confidential." Here comes the clanger..... "Whilst every effort is being made to deliver the full scope of the project, Council will not know with any certainty, the likely cost until tenders are received. Until that point, Council needs to continue to work with and respond to QS estimates which will increase in detail and accuracy as the level of design detail increases. Therefore there remains the potential that Council will not be able to afford the full scope of the project." "Within NSW, there continues to be record levels of investment in infrastructure and strong demand for residential, commercial and retail projects. This is placing an enormous amount of pressure on trade availability and costs in both the demolition and construction industries. "Industry experts expect these pressures will continue through 2019 and 2020 and as a direct consequence, tender price escalation is likely to remain high in the infrastructure sector. This issue not only compounds the cost of the new Centre but introduces new levels of complexity in terms of managing cost escalations during the tender process and throughout the actual construction phase. The QS cost estimate is therefore providing a prudent level of contingency and cost escalation which is placing pressure on the project budget and affordability."