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Is it all smoke and mirrors ... again or still?

The Beagle Editor Today's meeting about the Aquatic Centre for Batemans Bay should be interesting. I notice that Council has a media release out effusing how terrific it is all going but anyone reading between the lines has to be thinking that there is still a whole lot they aren't saying. Council's media release may satisfy the requirements of the State Governments community engagement requirements, how ever the actual community has not really been engaged at all. They’ve been told or dictated to once more. The media release about Mackay Park really doesn’t provide any detailed information of what’s likely to occur or when it will occur staged or not. At the moment it can only be seen as a desperate attempt to be seen to be doing. One thing they didn't mention about the Sunset Committee meeting was that it was the first time they have had the presence of someone from within council actually there to represent Arts and Culture. That same person also represents Youth. It is understood that she is the one responsible for the Community Strategy. That strategy advocates to: Support and encourage sustainable choices and lifestyles Encourage shared responsibility through an informed community Provide opportunities for broad and meaningful engagement Work together to enhance trust, participation and community pride So far Council has pretty well failed in those dot points when it comes to the secrecy around the purchase of the Batemans Bay Bowing Club and the formation of the Sunset Committee. Council has thrown a blanket over all communication out of the committee and a blanket over any meetings they have about the pool, the performance space and the proposed Public Private Partnership. The community has been writing letter to Council asking questions about the process of acquisition, the scope of works proposed, the development considerations and constraints and the BIGGEST question of all - how can we afford to maintain the facility. Today they have advised that their plan is a combined facility in the southern end It wasn’t that long ago councillors discussed or were briefed about costs associated with demolition of the BBBC buildings and tidying up the surrounding area. The possibility of asbestos being involved was also raised. A total demolition and clean up figure talked about was in the $400,000 area plus or minus a bit apparently.That amount may not show in the present budget, management plan though. But it’s likely that the amount needed to refurbish the BBBC buildings to make it useable or suitable for a performing arts venue, tourist information and community centre would be something similar or more. But what ever it is, some up to date estimates need to be provided now on upgrading and refurbishment cost to make the buildings compliant with present requirements for any proposed uses. Then a value added assessment can be made on the future likely viability of any plans or proposals. The Mayor says in the media release "everyone working on the project was mindful of the current funding opportunities being offered by the NSW Government and the need for Council to adopt a concept that achieved an outstanding outcome for the community while still being financially responsible and affordable." “The meeting was very constructive and we talked at length about the business case and conceptual ideas for the development of the site." If Council talked at length about the business case then this is news to us all because to date there has been no figures put down on the table to explain the purchase, the loan or the business case they undertook prior to the purchase of the Bowling Club site and there has been a dogged determination by Council to not answer any questions about these financials. The council had not done a feasibility study before the purchase - not even conducting any best/worst case scenarios – saying that couldn’t be done till they had a plan. (This of course is contrary to policy of council and OLG!)

In the absence still of nothing but a concept plan, a proper feasibility exercise has not yet been conducted nor has any indication been given to the community of how the ongoing maintenance of such facilities can be afforded, even if they are paid for 100% by grants.

Mind you, this is after plenty of time as -

  • the cost of an aquatic centre was detailed in council’s 2005 pools strategy

  • it was acknowledged in 2012 that some discussions had occurred regarding purchasing

  • the then mayor when the purchase was announced said discussions had been held over an 18 month period and that council in late 2015 had authorised the GM to negotiate a deal.

Here we are some 16 months later and now well over $3million gone, including over $100,000 spent on consultants and meetings still without any concrete idea of why our money has been spent and whether our investment has been given any chance of a return or benefit to the community. Name and address supplied

#Opinion #latest #BatemansBay

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