Council provides answers to Mackay Park Questions
Being widely circulated across the Shire today are scanned images and photographs of a four page fold-out A3 of Questions and Answers in regards to the Mackay Park project that staff have prepared. It is understood that Councillors have all been provided with the sheets as well so that there is a universal response available by Council to the questions that are being raised by the community. No doubt the Q&As will come out as a media release or as a four page supplement however for those keen to read the Q&As for themselves before tracking down a copy of the printed version they are as below courtesy of the many Beaglers keen to see anything Mackay park related out in the open.
Above: the four pages of Q&A's prepared by Council and now being distributed Mackay Park Batemans Bay Aquatic and Arts Facility Frequently Asked Questions Why is Council proposing to build a new aquatic and arts facility in Batemans Bay? The current outdoor 50-metre pool is only open for around six months of the year. It is 50 years old and is nearing the end of its life and isn't meeting the needs of our community. For a long time, residents have expressed a desire for something better. If Council can source sufficient funds, we would demolish the old outdoor pool and build a state of the art indoor aquatic facility that everyone can benefit from. The arts community in Batemans Bay has also expressed a desire for a purpose- built arts and cultural centre and the initial concept for the Mackay Park precinct includes a 500-seat auditorium/theatre and gallery, and spaces for rehearsals, dance, music, arts and community activities. To apply for the funding currently available from the NSW Government, we developed a concept and business case for a $46 million development, which includes: An indoor aquatic centre with: • 25-metre, eight-lane pool with ramp access • 10-metre warm water therapy pool and spa • freeform indoor leisure pool that includes learn-to-swim and toddler areas • water play splash pad • waterslides • gym, group fitness and wellness area • amenities An arts and cultural centre with: • large flexible, flat floor auditorium with retractable seating for 500 people • dressing rooms, green room and storage • gallery/exhibition space and storage • rehearsal/dance studio/music room • 'wet' arts workshop space and storage 'dry' arts workshop space and storage meeting room multi-purpose room amenities What might the new indoor aquatic and arts facility include? It's too early to be able to say exactly what will be included in a final design as we haven't yet secured any funds. The detailed design will be guided by the available budget. We are committed to ensuring that what is built is affordable and will meet the community's broader needs well into the future. Shared facilities with: • foyer • cafe • visitor information service • administration offices • plant and support services Why does the aquatic centre concept have a 25-metre pool and not a 50-metre pool? We were aware at the start of this project that some members of the Batemans Bay community wanted a 50-metre pool. That's why we specifically asked our consultants to consider the provision of a 50-metre and a 25-metre pool when providing their advice to Council. As part of the process to prepare a business case and concept, we obtained independent, professional advice that there is a limited market for lap swimming when compared to the strong demand for recreation, program and therapy pool space. If we provided an indoor purpose-built, eight-lane 25-metre pool for the training needs of swim club members and lap swimmers, we could also provide a warm water program pool and a leisure and learn-to-swim pool, meeting the needs of more community members. Given the additional construction and operational cost of a 50-metre pool, it is likely that the warm-water program pool or the learn-to-swim area would need to be sacrificed if a 50-metre pool was included. This would limit the facilities available to meet our community's needs. To include a 50-metre pool would have also weakened our business case, undermining the strength of our grant application and the likelihood of securing the NSW Government grant funds that are essential to the construction of the centre. The costs associated with constructing an indoor 25 Metre pool compared to an indoor 50-mette pool are considerably more than just extending the pool by 25 metres. Why can't we keep the 50-metre pool we have now as well as have a new aquatic centre? Keeping the existing 50-metre outdoor pool and building a new aquatic centre hasn't been included in the concept because this would be an added financial burden for ratepayers. The additional cost of running the old pool would make the proposal unaffordable, weaken the business case and make it less likely we would be able to secure the grant funds needed to build the centre. Also, the existing pool is ageing and would need to be removed or replaced at additional cost. What is the benefit of five separate pools instead of a 50-metre pool with a moveable divider? The various activities proposed in the five separate pools require different pool temperatures. Lap swimmers need a pool with water temperature around 26 degrees so they don't overheat. People using a therapy pool require 33 to 34 degrees so they remain warm while exercising. Toddlers and small children in learn-to-swim classes require a pool that is 30 to 32 degrees. A 50-metre pool with a moveable divider allows for 25-metre lap swimming at one end and programs in the other, which would mean that all aqua aerobics, therapy sessions, learn-to-swim and gentle exercise classes would happen in a pool that was colder than recommended. Or lap swimmers would be in water that was too warm. A 25-metre x eight-lane lap pool can cater to lap swimmers in a 26 degree pool, while activities and programs are happening in the four other pools at the right temperature for each activity. The total pool surface area is proposed to increase from 665m2 (the current 50m pool) to 1202m2 (based on the concept). Where will local schools and swim clubs have carnivals and meets? If we get the funds to go ahead, the 25-metre pool will comply with the International Swimming Federation's short course competition requirements, making it capable of hosting regional and NSW age events. All of Council's swimming centres are currently used for carnivals and many local schools use Moruya's 25-metre, eight-lane pool for school carnivals. Long course events can be held at Narooma's indoor 50-metre pool year-round. Why would a 50-metre pool construction cost $6.5 million more and $300,000 more per year in ongoing costs? The costs associated with constructing an indoor 25-metre pool compared to an indoor 50-metre pool are considerably more than just extending the pool by 25 metres. Circulation space around the pools is required to ensure their effective and safe operation. It would not be possible to incorporate a 50-metre indoor pool without significantly increasing the size of the pool building. Incorporating an additional 26.5 x 28 metres of pool space (includes a 1.5m fibreglass bulkhead to enable the 50 metre pool to be divided into two separate pools, and a minimum four-metre concourse on both sides of the additional water) will add up to 742m2 to the roof structure and additional walls. The inclusion of a 50-metre pool in preference to the 25-metre pool would also significantly increase the costs associated with the plant room's specifications for water circulation, treatment and filtration. The inclusion of a 50-metre pool would increase the operating costs due to the additional staff required to supervise the additional area. There are also increased costs associated with maintaining the larger water area such as chemicals and materials, as well as additional energy costs. Why didn't Council include a 1,000-seat performance space in the concept? We know there are people who believe the Mackay Park concept should have a 1000-seat performance centre. The preliminary concept is based on providing a vibrant and usable arts, events and theatre space that meets the needs of the arts and broader community. Other options - such as including a larger space suitable for occasional large commercial exhibitions, events and conventions - were considered during the preparation of the business case and concept. Ultimately these options were not included because it couldn't be demonstrated that they would meet the needs of the arts and broader community in an affordable and responsible way. An auditorium with retractable seating for up to 500 has been included in the concept to satisfy the requirements for touring shows or larger events. There is other floor space allocated to arts and community spaces and rooms in the concept, so there will be scope during the design stage to investigate other configurations in the building footprint. This will depend on the budget, although feedback from the community shows there is a need for dedicated arts and community spaces and rooms. The option still exists for the private sector to provide a convention and events space as part of the development of the northern section of the precinct (former bowling club). Council will go out to the market in a competitive process to determine interest in the site. If there is a business case for these facilities, the private sector will be best placed to take on the commercial risks, rather than exposing ratepayers. How many people use our three pools now? Public swimming pools are a service provided by Council to the community. Maintenance and operating costs are much higher than the income received from entry fees at all three pools in Eurobodalla, and for most council-operated pools in NSW. So the size of the pool in relation to how many people use it is important. What they use it for is also important. Our five-year visitation data shows that the 25-metre outdoor pool at Moruya is more popular than the 50-metre outdoor pool at Batemans Bay, with both of them opening for about 26 weeks of the year (increased to 28 weeks in 2017). On average, the Moruya 25-metre pool has more visits per week than the other two pools. In the past five years, 478,410 people visited our pools. Narooma pool accounted for 45% of visitors, Moruya 31% and Batemans Bay 24%. The total average visits per week over the last five years can be estimated to be 887 in Narooma, 888 in Batemans Bay and 1154 in Moruya. Why are you proposing to build an aquatic centre and an arts and cultural centre as one building? Council considered the options for two separate buildings and a combined building. Ultimately they resolved to apply for funding for a combined facility because it would cost much less to construct and operate. This means that more of the budget could be spent on inclusions that meet our community's needs and priorities. Separating the facilities would cost about $2.97m more to operate over 10 years when compared with the concept adopted by Council. The proposed concept has a shared foyer with a reception area, café, gallery, visitor information services and associated retail and car parks. The cost to build the facilities if they were separated was estimated to cost $2.72m more than the concept adopted by Council. Also, a combined facility on the southern part of the precinct leaves the freehold Council-owned land to the north (the former bowling club site) available for other development such as tourist accommodation and events and convention facilities. Maintenance and operation costs are much higher than the income received from entry fees at all three pools in Eurobodalla, and for most council-operated pools in NSW Why can't the old bowling club be the arts and cultural centre? The bowling club building is old and in poor condition. It was built to be a club, not an arts centre. Council investigated the costs of restoring it to a standard where the community could use it soon after it was purchased. Estimates show it would cost about $90,000 upfront to restore to a usable state, about $86,000 every year after that for repairs and renewals, and $120,000 a year for operating costs, some of which could be offset by revenue from venue hire. Significant work would be required to modify the building for an arts centre. Because of this, the additional operational cost, and that utilising the building for this purpose would restrict other uses such as convention and events, or tourism accommodation, we are proposing a purpose-built arts facility to meet the community's needs. Who is Otium Planning and what is their experience in these projects? Otium Planning were appointed by Council to prepare a concept and business case for the project after a competitive request for quotations process in 2016. Otium have worked with 120 local government authorities around Australia, as well as larger projects such as the National Swimming Centre for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. Otium has prepared strategies and feasibility studies for aquatic facilities in many regional locations, including in Albury, Bass Coast, Bega Valley, Clarence Valley, Gladstone, Gympie, Surf Coast, to name a few. Otium brought in specialist consultants to assist with the arts and cultural planning, Outside the Square Creative. It's too early to be able to say exactly what will be included In a final design as we haven't yet secured any funds. How is Council involving the community in this project? Council has consulted with the community over many years on a range of projects related to aquatic, arts and cultural facilities. Soon after purchasing the bowling club site in 2016 we asked the community for ideas about it's future uses. Later in 2016, Council established the Batemans Bay Mackay Park Precinct Sunset Committee so that community representatives could be involved in helping us plan the project and oversee the community engagement. The committee included representatives from community groups including Batemans Bay Indoor Aquatic Centre, Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce, PerFex, Batemans Bay U3A, and South Coast Pastel Society. Once the concept was developed, the committee put forward recommendations to expand the auditorium to a larger capacity and to separate the two facilities so that the arts centre was located on the bowling club site. After considering these options, councillors chose to endorse the combined facility because of the cost savings that can be achieved with shared management and facilities, and to retain the economic development potential of the bowling club site, which Council owns. Council held two community information sessions in August 2017 and we continue to provide as much information as we can in this early concept stage. We do this on our website,media releases, through our newsletters and social media, and by responding to questions from the community and media. We are committed to ongoing engagement with the community throughout the design and development stages once funding is obtained. Where is the money coming from to build the facility? We are currently seeking funds from the NSW and Australian Governments, including two expressions of interest to the NSW Government for grant funding that were submitted in September 2017. One is for $28.3 million under the Regional Sports and Infrastructure Fund and the other is for $8 million under the Regional Cultural Fund. We are also working on a submission to the Australian Government's Building Better Regions Fund which is due by 9 December 2017. The project cost, based on the preliminary concept, is estimated to be $46 million. Council may also consider allocating some funds from its budgets, and other funding sources such as loan funding. If we don't secure the full $36.3 million in NSW Government grants, Council will review the proposal and prioritise what is included to ensure the final design includes the community's highest needs and that it can be built within the available budget. The business case for the $46 million proposal is only affordable if sufficient grants and external funding is secured. The sale or leasing of the Batemans Bay community centre and visitor centre will also contribute towards the costs. These services will relocate into the new facility under the business case. Where will money come from for the facility's operation and maintenance? The money will come from Council's existing budgets. There is also potential for new income streams from the lease or sale of the existing community centre and visitor information centre to meet any increase in ongoing costs, as well as opportunities to progress the development of the former bowling club site. Will rates go up to pay for it? Council has no plans to increases rates to pay for this project. Council is committed to building an affordable aquatic and arts facility that meets the needs of the community and does not require a rates increase to pay for it. For more information about the project visit www.esc.nsw.gov.au/mackaypark