Next Tuesday Eurobodalla Councillors will be asked to adopt a staff recommendation that will allow them to access additional funds to pay for the Mackay Park project if tenders come back in excess of their budget of 51m. They state that the purpose of the report is to note the estimated total funding for the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (BBRAALC) and its funding sources. "Nothing to see here... we are just noting" .... but it is much more than noting. It is endorsing that Council have an undisclosed bucket of money ready to cover cost blowouts. How big is that bucket of money? Community money, ratepayers money? We don't know because it is confidential. In late October 2019, Quantity Surveyors, Wilde & Woollard provided Council with a confidential report which indicated an estimated total cost of the project, including build, contingencies, locality allowance, car parking and roads. This means that Councillors now know roughly how much the latest Concept plan will cost. The report to Council says "The quantum of funds outlined in the confidential attachment needs to be identified for the tender process to proceed as under Section 211 Authorisation of Expenditure of the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005), The word quantum derives from the Latin, meaning "how great" or "how much". .... The problem is that we, the community, have no idea what the QUANTUM $$$$ figure is. What we do know though is that Council must not incur a liability for the expenditure of money unless there is an approval of that expenditure at an ordinary Council meeting. So here is the rub. Councillors are being told "Depending on the outcome of the tender process, the sources of funds as identified in the confidential attachment may be utilised unless alternate funds, such as additional grants, are secured" Additional Grants? Council already has: • $26.0m in grant funds from the NSW Government - $18.0m 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 What justification might they put forward for even more grants? Council states in its report it has "also recognised that our community needs a safe and resilient space for people in the Batemans Bay area and surrounds to access during an emergency, the design of the centre has been slightly modified so that it can also fulfil the role of an evacuation centre should the need arise. This is also an important factor in seeking further grant funding." What are these "slightly modified" changes that have been made? We don't know as it is confidential. Will the "slightly modified" changes be considered in the tender? We don't know. What we do know is that they weren't included in the confidential report of October 2019, Quantity Surveyors, Wilde & Woollard which was provided BEFORE the fires. Now to pull this seemingly innocuous sentence apart: "Depending on the outcome of the tender process, the sources of funds as identified in the confidential attachment may be utilised unless alternate funds, such as additional grants, are secured"
What do we know? Councillors have a rough idea of what it will cost but aren't telling anyone. They know they have $55m to spend that includes an existing $4m loan. Council says "Whilst every effort is being made to deliver the full scope of the project, Council will not know the likely cost with any certainty, until tenders are received. Therefore, Council will need to consider all options as they are known." Council KNOWS how much it is estimated to build. Like anyone building a house they have done their sums. Council says "Until Council goes to tender, it is not known what the actual cost of the project will be. Should the tender responses exceed budget expectations then Council will have to reconsider delivery of the project overall, including possible significant changes to scope and design, noting that any major changes will come at a cost in itself. Further negotiations with the preferred tenderer can also be undertaken." Exceed Budget Expectations? The very reason behind this smoke and mirrors report is to formally endorse BUDGET EXPECTATIONS that include OTHER FUNDS IDENTIFIED IN A CONFIDENTIAL ATTACHMENT. This is very clear in the report under Financial: $25m + $26m = $51m + OTHER FUNDS in confidential attachment = Budget How much is available in Other Funds and where do they come from? We don't know because that is confidential. What we do know is that the Councillors have all pretty much agreed to raiding the community Piggy Bank if the tender price comes in above $51m where the report states " It is clear however, that Council can meet the capital outlay of the centre based upon current anticipated costs." "OTHER FUNDS IDENTIFIED IN A CONFIDENTIAL ATTACHMENT ???" Might these include the sale of assets such as the Batemans Bay Community Centre and the Information Centre? Maybe Council will press ahead to sell off even more public reserves it deems to be under utilised. Or it might mean that Council further increases water and sewer rates to maximise the annual dividend they now pay to the General Fund in order to get around CPI rates cap. THE ELEPHANT IN THE CORNER: In the report Council say it "has a strong business case for the concept plan developed by Otium Planning Group, industry leaders in the planning and development of aquatic facilities." "The business case is also supported by expert advice in the provision and operation of arts facilities. It demonstrates how the concept plan meets a broad range of community needs as expressed by the community, in accordance with best practice trends and based on the population characteristics of our community." The problem with that business case is that it is proven flawed; and has exaggerated projected incomes, underestimated expenditures and no depreciation. The bottom line? On Tuesday February 25th, 2020 our councilors will be voting to commit to a BUDGET that the community are NOT aware of that will avail $51m PLUS. As that PLUS has to come from somewhere REAL and not from possible grants in the future our councillors have been briefed by staff as to exactly where the funds will come from. And without ANY consultation with the community they will be endorsing WHATEVER strategy council staff have to secure any shortfall.