$23m bungle forces council backflip
Pool and Showgrounds safe after Herald story exposes ‘errors’ and ‘inaccurate’ costings in flawed sports plan
BUNGLED costings have forced the Toodyay Shire Council into an embarrassing backflip over a planned new $23 million sports and recreation precinct, including a long-awaited public swimming pool.
A pool will still be built near the high school but plans for a new football and cricket oval, stadium seating, multi-purpose function centre, second set of changerooms and major earthworks have been scrapped.Read more
Borrowings will be slashed by two thirds and limited to a new rectangular pitch for hockey, soccer and rugby, new courts for netball, basketball and tennis, changerooms and a ‘modest’ 25m public swimming pool.
Halving the total cost and scale of the project also removes any need to sell the Toodyay Showgrounds to help fund the original project, an option denied by Shire CEO Stan Scott despite his November report that includes moving the Toodyay Show as part of the shire’s $23 million business case.
Serious financial errors were exposed when The Toodyay Herald revealed in its December Page 1 story that a new $8 million loan to help fund the project would hit ratepayers with more than $1 million in extra costs every year for the next 20 years.
Though Crs Ben Bell and Sally Craddock voiced concerns over the size of the cost at November’s council meeting, councillors voted 6-2 in favour of Mr Scott’s recommendation to quadruple shire debt.
“Yes, it’s been advertised,” Mr Scott said.
That decision lasted only a week before Shire President Brian Rayner – who missed the November meeting – called a hurrie
The special meeting was called “in light of errors identified in the project’s life-cycle costs,” Mr Scott reported to council.
He said the Herald’s front page story a week earlier had “raised the profile of both the project and its funding”.
“The life-cycle modelling that supported the (council’s) decision was inaccurate and understated,” Mr Scott said.
Cr Rob Welburn said the CEO’s original costings – which he described in November as “serviceable” – were in fact “too far out”.
“It worked out to be too burdensome for the shire to maintain,” Cr Welburn said.
Cr Craddock’s move to rescind the council’s November decision was seconded by Crs Welburn and Judy Dow, and passed 9-0.
Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty then moved to approve a significantly reduced plan to borrow $2.7 million instead of the original $8 million.
Cr Bell had argued earlier that the shire could build a $4.7 million pool quickly by borrowing only $60,000 – “I just want to deliver something to ratepayers,” he said.
However, Deputy President Chitty said it was important to include new facilities for basketball, netball, hockey, tennis, soccer and other sports because there was nowhere else in Toodyay for these sports to be played .
“Parents have to take their children to other towns, which is a disincentive for them to take part in healthy activities that most other country towns take for granted.
“Hockey and soccer need a new field because their previous location was on an Aboriginal burial site,” she said.
“Our basketball and netball courts are too small.
“Our kids are our future, and having adequate sporting facilities is vital in rural communities.
“It will also bring more money into our town when visiting teams and children with their parents come to Toodyay to compete in sporting events, and stay on to eat in our hotels and cafes, and shop locally.
“I see this happen when our teams go to other country towns, but we always miss out because we don’t have the same sporting facilities and venues that they do.
“Let’s not just sit on this again and keep repeating history.”
Cr Di Granger proposed an alternative motion that Mr Scott provide the council with a “comprehensive and fully costed council business case for only a swimming pool”.
She also said a new swimming pool should be heated for year-round use.
However, that motion lapsed when Cr Chitty’s motion for a scaled-down project – seconded by Cr Dow – was passed 6-3, with Crs Bell, Craddock and Granger against.
President Rayner said if the council’s reduced funding bid failed, a pool would still be built using existing shire resources and could be designed to be heated later.
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