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Council to approve Mackay Park tender without revealing approx $15m blowout to community

At the Ordinary Council meeting of July 28th Eurobodalla Lindsay Usher - Director, Planning and Sustainability Services will advise Councillors to endorse: - the staff's selection of the preferred tenderer listed for Request for Tender No. 10029731 – Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre - Design Finalisation and Construction - Council allocating a total project budget Lindsay Usher says in his report "The funding required for the construction of the new facility is below the overall estimated project costs as outlined in the confidential attachment in the report that went to Council at the 25 February 2020 Council Meeting. Mr Usher's report however fails to identify that the confidential attachment in the report that went to Council at the 25 February 2020 Council Meeting was based on new estimates of the cost to construct and advised the Councillors that there was a sizable GAP. Mr Usher says "The amount tendered by the preferred Tenderer can be accommodated within the grant funds received, loan funding secured and the additional funds from reserves and identified sources to be allocated as outlined in a confidential attachment" ( that only councillors can access)". He advises Councillors that " Grants of $51 million and loan funding of $4 million have previously been accepted by Council for the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre as follows:  $26.0m in grant funds from the NSW Government - $18m from the Regional Communities Development Fund (NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet) and $8.0m from the Regional Cultural Fund (NSW Planning and Environment)  $25.0m in grant funds from the Australian Government’s Regional Growth Fund (Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities)  $4.0m loan funding that Council has also secured. The grant funds and loans total ONLY $55 million. This is a long way from the recently re-estimated project cost as calculated and provided to Councillors secretly by a contracted Quantity Surveyor. That final figure was deemed Commercial in Confidence and was given to the councillors so they could receive a secret report from staff advising how the Council would meet the shortfall of the blowout (also known as THE GAP) What Mr Usher and the Councillors ARE NOT telling the community is that the expected cost of construction of the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre is expected to be in the order of $65 to $70 million and the SECRET difference is outlined in the confidential attachment that only councillors can read In the Financial section of Mr Usher's report there is NOTHING about the size of the GAP that Councillors will be voting on nor any detail as to where the GAP money, estimated to be $10 to $15 million will be coming from. All the community knows of THE GAP of $10 to $15m is that Council approved the project to release the tender for the development of the BBRAALC based on the financial information outlined in a confidential attachment at the 25 February 2020 Ordinary Council Meeting. This meeting endorsed the confidential attachment that listed public reserves to be sold, public building such as the Batemans Bay Community Centre to be sold and the moving of restricted funds around in Council's accounts. On Tuesday Council will be asked to endorse going ahead with the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre WITHOUT advising the community how much the Centre will cost, what the blow out will be, how it will be paid for and provided with the long sought after business case that presents projected incomes and overheads. When recently asked for a response and to intervene to the Eurobodalla Council's veil of secrecy around the Mackay Park project the Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said: "The Government recognises that there are a range of views in the local community on the merits of the this project. While the project may not enjoy universal support from all members of the local community, the decision to proceed with the project is one that rests with the Council in its discretion.

"However, it is the Government’s view that all councils need to be careful in how they use ratepayers’ money, particularly at a time when they are under financial pressure and facing significant challenges in maintaining delivery of community infrastructure and services because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Ultimately, the Council will be accountable to its community for its decision to proceed with the project. The community will have an opportunity to demonstrate its support or dissatisfaction with the Council’s decision when voting at the next council election."

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