BELLINGEN Shire's Raleigh Works Depot is to be upgraded at a cost of $4.5 million, 50 per cent more than the original $3 million estimate made in 2008.
In the heated debate that preceded the final four:three vote, Councillors Kerry Child, Bruce Cronin and Gordon Braithwaite, all argued the latest price tag was unaffordable as it would result in an unacceptable loss of services to ratepayers for the next two decades.
The report, which gave details of the two tenders the council received for the project, outlined a repayment strategy of $440,000 per annum for 20 years to service the $4.5 million Local Government loan.
Cr Child said the council had rejected a $4.7million upgrade option back in December 2006 on the grounds of it being unafford- able.
“If that price was not affordable then, what makes it affordable now?” she said.
“I think we should go back and complete the upgrade in stages as we can afford them rather than go ahead with this project as one huge item.”
Cr Braithwaite said the depot upgrade would be Bellingen Shire's ‘Glasshouse'.
“To take this amount of money out of the roads and other budgets every year for the next 20 years will have a significant impact on the services to our ratepayers.
“The consultants previously said staging the upgrade could prove to be the cheaper option.”
Cr Mark Troy said leaving the problem of fixing the depot for a future council to resolve was not an option.
“Having a working depot underpins the delivery of our works program,” he said.
“If we continue to wait, the costs will only continue to rise. We need to demonstrate leadership on this crucial issue.”
Cr Sean Tuohy said the council really had no choice but to proceed with the upgrade.
“These are frightening numbers but we have occupational health and safety responsibilities to our staff and we need a functional depot . . . as much as I am reluctant to spend this much money, I consider we have no choice but to build.”
With a boundary adjustment issue still due to be resolved, work on the project would likely not begin until the new year.