Councillors Keith Rhoades and Sally Townley debate the merits of the controversial project at the August 8 meeting.
Councillors Keith Rhoades and Sally Townley debate the merits of the controversial project at the August 8 meeting.

Review needed to boost confidence

One of the councillors who voted to proceed with the Cultural and Civic Space is calling for an independent financial review to add "another layer of confidence and transparency."

Cr Sally Townley is calling for a review of Coffs Harbour City Council's long term financial plan and ability to service the debt for the $67.5million project planned for Gordon Street.

With the sale of existing buildings (including Rigby House, the museum and the current council chambers) it is expected council will need to borrow $46m to fund the civic space.

Cr Townley's motion will be considered at Thursday night's council meeting.

While she realises council staff have already conducted extensive financial analysis into the project, Cr Townley believes the review will add another layer of transparency in relation to the bold venture which continues to attract considerable community opposition.

 

One of Council’s properties on Rose Avenue which will help fund the Cultural and Civic Space.
One of Council’s properties on Rose Avenue which will help fund the Cultural and Civic Space.

The Cultural and Civic Space will include a gallery, library, museum, multipurpose meeting rooms which can also be used as the Council Chamber, shop, café along with Council customer service area, offices and carparking.

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Cr Townley says it's important to set the loan for the civic space into the context of Council's overall loan commitments.

"The long term financial impact of the project is important, not just in terms of repayments and interest, but also expected outgoings, depreciation, maintenance, refurbishment schedules etc. A detailed analysis of this will inform Councillors and the public," Cr Townley said.

Councillors opposed to the project including Paul Amos have warned of cost blowouts on the project and some members of the public are fearful this could lead to rate rises in the future.

Mayor Denise Knight has stated clearly there will be no rate rises to help fund the project and has foreshadowed the long term financial benefits of the project.

"An independent economic assessment has identified a host of benefits to the CBD including financial gains over a 30-year period totalling $57m and 31 ongoing jobs. When in operation, it is projected to contribute $2m annually to the Gross Regional Product through support of local businesses," Cr Knight said.

Construction is expected to start in 2020 for completion in 2022.



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