The council chambers building will be one of several sold to help offset the cost of the Gordon St development.
The council chambers building will be one of several sold to help offset the cost of the Gordon St development.

Councillor says ‘call in the experts’ for a review

A Councillor has warned there are a number of important 'sleeper' projects in the budget that will be very hard to afford in light of last week's decision to progress with the Cultural and Civic Space.

Coffs Harbour City Councillor Paul Amos is calling for an independent review into the whole process and is clearly uncomfortable with last week's vote.

"We're moving ahead with it now so there's no shutting the gate. The horse has already bolted. It would be near on impossible to get out of this now," Cr Amos said.

"In my eyes there are many inconsistencies with the case put forward. Financial inconsistencies are just one of the aspects."

He also fears it will be very difficult for Councillors to work together from now on, given the bitter divide surrounding the project.

Councillors had been split four-four in a lengthy stalemate which was broken on Thursday with Mayor Denise Knight using her casting vote to progress to detailed design and construction on the Gordon Street project which will include a new library, art gallery and council office space.

Cr Paul Amos was hoping to raise an alternative motion which would have supported the Cultural and Civic Space but include an independent assessment to assess the ‘rigour of financial governance’ surrounding the project.
Cr Paul Amos was hoping to raise an alternative motion which would have supported the Cultural and Civic Space but include an independent assessment to assess the ‘rigour of financial governance’ surrounding the project.

"Yes it will be challenging to move ahead because we have been so passionate about our solid stance on this. Each and every councillor," Mr Amos said.

Councillor Amos, Tegan Swan, John Arkan and Keith Rhoades were against progressing the project while Denise Knight, Michael Adendorff, George Cecato and Sally Townley were for it.

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He says he has received overwhelmingly positive support for his stance which included an extraordinary walkout by the four opposing councillors at their July 26 meeting.

In the lead up to last week's vote Cr Amos had attempted to get what he considered a very reasonable alternative motion up for discussion which included proceeding with the project but at the same time engaging a suitably qualified consultant to:

"Assess the rigor of financial governance surrounding the proposed funding model of the Gordon St project; and identify the impact of imminent large infrastructure projects on Council's ability to service large discretionary loans."

The projects he referred to include replacement of Woolgoolga and Sawtell pools, new large-scale solar power infrastructure, Woolgoolga Multipurpose Centre, replacement of their landfill facility, sewer inflow system repairs and upgrade and the airport development.

"Some of these sleepers need to be factored into this development. I get told we haven't signed off on these projects yet so they're excluded from the figures, but this is not a prudent way to move forward if they're commitments that have been made - they're not going away."

While he doesn't think the projects will be at risk he does fear there will be excessive pressure on council's financial system moving forward.

The $76.5 million project will start next year with completion expected in 2022.

Funding is to be sourced through $10.5m from Council cost-savings reserves, an expected $20.54m from the sale of Rigby House, Council's Customer Service Centre and Chamber in Castle Street, buildings in Rose Avenue and the current Museum.

Council will need to borrow approximately $46m but says it is in a good position to finance the loans.



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