Will RMS spend $0.5m fix up Bowling Club only to see it all demolished when they leave

Many feel it is time to have a look at the detail of the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. The options being bandied around are: Option 1. Lease it to the RMS – remember that Council have a $2m loan on the property so many feel the rental should be set to cover the interest payment estimated to be @ $80,000 per year. The RMS might need to do some work on the building to get it habitable and operable. In February this year Council stated in its Frequently Asked Questions Fact sheet: What will happen to the old bowling club? We are currently in discussions with the NSW Roads and Maritime Service, who approached Council about the possible temporary leasing of the old bowling club land as a site office and equipment storage area for construction of the new Batemans Bay bridge. Note that the above says LAND and not building.

Above: as can be seen above there is considerable land available for the RMS to place demountables and plant.

HOW MUCH to bring the building to a state of useability? Again from Council's Frequently Asked Questions Fact Sheet: 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. Where did those figures come from? In June 2017 Council stated in a report: "Repair costs to make the building ready for occupation have been estimated at $90,000.00 for general repair work including $30,000.00 to upgrade the existing air conditioning system to an operational state In addition, the asset condition assessment identifies an approximate cost of $86,000.00 per annum to address necessary ‘end of life’ renewal/replacement works, or an additional $344,000.00 by 2021. It is also estimated that operating costs would be approximately $10,000.00 per month for utilities and management support. Therefore, for a four year period, costs would total $434,000.00, plus an additional amount for operating costs estimated to be $480,000.00." So roughly the RMS might be looking at leasing the site for four years at $80,000 per year ($320,000 for 4 years) with spending around $914,000 (four years) to bring the building up to standard and operate it if they want to occupy the building. All up $1.234m just to have their depot at the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site if they use the building as well. Question 1: Why would the RMS spend that much to restore a building only to then see that building demolished which is very much the clear intention of Council? Question 2 : Are the leasing arrangements being discussed only for the use of the land and NOT the building. According to the Bay Post March 9th 2018 The RMS environmental impact statement released in November, 2017, earmarked the site as an “ancillary facility for the construction”. “As well as providing for site offices and amenities, it would also serve for parking and stockpiling of materials and structural elements. Some structures may be removed if they are not suitable for use as site offices and amenities,” the RMS said. So, according to the Bay Post article the RMS may remove some structures if they are not suitable for use. If they do "remove some structures" will that be at RMS cost or council's? And before they do will the public be advised? Remember Council's Frequently Asked Questions? Why can’t the old bowling club be the arts and cultural centre? The bowling club building is old and in poor condition. (is it really?) Now read the engineers report below of 2016 that states the building is considered to be in generally sound structural condition and fit for purpose and the building fabric in fair to good condition. As can be seen above the statement "The bowling club building is old and in poor condition" is an opinion of a staff member and not reflective of the commissioned engineers report Council has at hand (below).

This brings us to Option 2 - Demolition of the Bowling Club building In Councils June 2017 report it states: Following the Council Resolution of 22 November 2016 to obtain an estimated costing for the demolition of the building and establishing a temporary car park, these costings have been obtained. A quotation for demolition was obtained that included: · completion of a waste management plan · erection of safety fencing · removal of all asbestos sheeting, as per the Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos (NWHSC:2011) · provision of an asbestos clearance report · demolition of structure, footings, and bowling greens in accordance with Australian Standard and Code of Practice for Demolition Work (2012) · separation of steel for recycling · removal of all waste to approved waste facilities · crushing of concrete, which is to be stockpiled and left onsite · remaining site to be leveled and left in neat order. The cost of the quotation was $258,500.00 (including GST). Due to the cost of these works, they would be subject to a formal tendering process, at which time the price may vary. Question 3 : As with any RMS project of this size they already have all their pre-fabricated mobile offices. Dignams Creek and Burrill Lake are perfect examples. Why aren't RMS setting these up on the considerable existing space available on the Bowling club site (greens, carpark, back of swamp) ? Let’s not forget that there is a current action adopted at the Extraordinary Council Meeting 29 August 2017 that: "Council make a decision on the potential demolition of the former Batemans Bay Bowling Club building once a decision is made on the development of the Mackay Park Precinct."

Council is very clear with this. They want to see the building demolished. They do not want the building and they do not want the community to use the building. When they purchased the site in 2016 they knew they were paying $2.73m for a vacant block of land that would require them to demolish the building at an additional cost of around $300,000. It is now considered that seeking Expressions of Interest from the community was one of the most disingenuous acts Council have done in the whole process to date as it is evident that they had no intention from the outset of allowing the community to use the building. From the outset Council seeking community expressions of interest for interim use was a token gesture however when they saw where it might take them alarm bells rang through their ranks as they quickly realised that it would be hard to “evict” an entrenched community from a community asset. All the time Council had desperately wanted to find a developer to go into Public Private Partnership (PPP) with however that failed dismally with no interest shown at all. Option 3. Don’t lease it to the RMS, put it up for sale (Note that the General Manager has now advised councillors it is her intention to sell the land), then have developer, be it a consortium (or another party) buy the site, possibly recouping the losses of the $2.7m purchase and see if the RMS threat of forced acquisition over a private body stands. Council has very clearly stated that it wants to have control of what is developed on the site, even if they don't own the land. Again quotes from the Bay Post March 9th 2018 “After taking on board community input, the council identified a number of preferred development outcomes for the site, including a conference and events space, tourist accommodation, residential accommodation, restaurants and cafes,” the Council spokesperson said. “We plan to go to the private sector and broader community this year to identify potential interested parties to deliver these or other compatible uses.“This process will ensure the best possible outcome is achieved for the community.” “While the site is being used by RMS to support construction of the bridge, the council can undertake the necessary process to identify the successful party, who will then have time to finalise detailed design, obtain necessary development consent, construction approvals, appoint builders and be ready to start the project when it is vacated by RMS.” Local newspaper headlines such as “Bowlo ‘just needs elbow grease’: Allan Rutherford” reporting a formal proposal by a private body might now force Council need toadvise how it will be constraining developers who might want to build something other than what Council wants for its Gateway. Especially when Council has no "skin in the game" Initially the only reason justifying the purchase that has come from Council has been the statement: "The former bowling club site is in a strategically significant location in Eurobodalla’s largest town. Council purchased the site with a view to ensuring the site is developed and used in a manner that will benefit the Batemans Bay and Eurobodalla communities." Mayor Liz Innes After considerable goading to provide the community with a believable reason why they spent $2.73m acquiring a property (that has a value of only $1.5m) it’s now being quietly claimed in the back corridors of Council that the staff have had a development plan all along for the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site. They are now wheeling out the “dream” of long gone General Manager Jim Levy, rebadging it and claiming it as their own.

Jim Levy’s Dream included Seniors Living, shopping provisions, an Information Centre, Community Centre, Public Transport Facilities Vehicle, parking for larger vehicles etc. Though council staff have altered Jim’s Dream somewhat by moving the community centre and information centre next door to the proposed Aquatic Centre the other elements remain but now also include tourism accommodation and a conference centre with the idea of a pedestrian flyover over Vesper Street to give access to the Village Centre. Why the info centre and community centre into the aquatic centre - well they say it is to centralise management however one of the conditions of the grant is that they have t co-contribute and the intention is to sell the existing Information Centre across the road and the Community Centre near the museum. That might raise the necessaries however they haven't actually received the permission of the community as yet to sell either building. This week we learnt that Ramada Inn is about to turn the sod on a $28m, 50 apartment resort with conference centre, pool, restaurant and facilities on Beach Road opposite the Corrigans playground and splash area. Council’s “Dream” for tourism accommodation might have just been pipped at the post. With the traffic volumes on Beach Road soon to reduce considerably by the opening of the Spine Road bypass a prospective investor to the Batemans Bay Bowling Club site, constrained by Councils vision, might not be so keen to have their premium accommodation located above an interstate bus stop adjacent to a six lane highway on an unattractive, industrially lined bypass of the town. While the Bowling Club site might be occupied for several years by the Roads and Maritime Services apparently expressions of interest will be invited to develop the area in accordance with Council’s Plans. All up the project could be completed and usable in say ten years time. Jim’s Dream has been known in the corridors of Council for many years. It is a pity the Council have been hiding behind a veil of secrecy. It is also disappointing that they put in place a story that the building was beyond repair and dangerous and uninhabitable claiming mould and dangling electrical cables making it too dangerous to enter for community inspection.

A comment made just a day ago in social media provided an interesting insight on the current condition of the building. "I've seen inside the club itself while doing a job there. Still glasses on tables, sign in books at the foyer, tab is still stocked, TVs still on the walls, even someone's hat sitting on a chair. It's like they called last drinks and simply closed the doors. Maintenance sheds still have all the mowers and green keeping equipment. From what I could tell, it could easily be bought back to life." Alan Rutherford says in the Bay Post article “(Council) believes the existing building has no value, which we don’t agree with. It certainly needs some work, but nothing that can’t be fixed using community volunteers and bit of elbow grease.” Question 4: Knowing full well that any money spent on the Batemans Bay Bowling Club building and site will be a waste as it is destined for demolition is the RMS prepared to justify such an expenditure as part of the Bridge costs ? Question 5 : The Bowling Club precinct has considerable open space available for demountables and plant. Have the RMS measured the space required to accommodate its demountables, equipment and materials? Does that space require the Bowling club building as well? Are the RMS aware of the Council estimates that requires an estimated $430,000 to bring it to, and maintain it at, a habitable standard with the additional estimated costs of $480,000 over four years to keep it operable? And this on top of a possible lease of $80,000 per year for the site as a whole. Just a few questions for a start and the more questions you raise the more that follow behind. Only time will tell for the above. We watch with interest.

#Opinion #LeiParker

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