Councillors break the deadlock in fiery meeting
Coffs Harbour City Councillors have broken the stalemate on the contentious Cultural and Civic Space and Mayor Denise Knight is "delighted" with the outcome.
Councillors have been locked in a bitter standoff after the four opposed to the project walked out of the July 26 meeting; refusing to vote on a rescission motion which would have stalled the project.
The four feared the Mayor would use her casting vote to defeat the rescission motion meaning the decision of July 11 to proceed with the project would go ahead. Stunned and "gutted" Mayor Denise Knight adjourned the meeting for the next day but once again the four councillors refused to enter the chambers and vote.
Tonight all eyes were on Councillor Keith Rhoades (who moved the rescission motion to stall the project) along with Paul Amos (who has warned of cost blowouts), John Arkan and Tegan Swan to see how they would vote - or if they would stage yet another walkout.
Councillors for the project are Denise Knight, Sally Townley, George Cecato and Michael Adendorff. Cr Jan Strom was forced to resign due to illness leaving the even number.
With councillors already debating the matter on July 26, tonight's meeting kicked off from where it broke down with Cr Rhoades giving his right of reply as the mover of the rescission motion. After some preliminary questions the matter was put to a vote.
THIS WAS HOW THE MEETING UNFOLDED:
5.35: The rescission motion was put to the vote.
All those in favour of the rescission motion (to stall the project) were Crs Amos, Arkan, Swan and Rhoades.
Those against the motion were Adendorff, Knight, Townley and Cecato.
With the vote tied once again the Mayor used her casting vote to defeat the rescission motion. This means the July 11 decision to proceed to detailed design and construction phase will go ahead.
Members of the public against the project stormed out of the meeting booing and calling out "shame" while those in support cheered and clapped.
Speaking after the meeting Cr Knight said she was delighted with the outcome and says it's ridiculous to claim 90 per cent of the community is against it.
"There is so much support for this and there has been for many years.
"It's time for arts and culture - it's the right place at the right time. We've waited 25 years to get something like this, how much longer do we have to wait," Cr Knight said.
"I am relieved that we've made a decision on this and that we were able to finish our business papers for the community who have been waiting a long time."
5.30: Cr Rhoades begins his right of reply to his rescission motion by asking once again about studies into the feasability of City Hill given the studies are still ongoing.
"What if it turns out, at end of day, we get a report back and it absolutely puts another site - it might not be City Hill it might be Brelsford Park - well and truly in front of Gordon Street ? So for this very valid reason why aren't we waiting for the outcome of this report?"
Cr Rhoades claimed 90% of the community is opposed to the project.
Cr Townley called point of order saying "that is simply not true". He stood by his view waving a copy of just one petition against it with over 2000 signatures.
Cr Rhoades: "when you get so many people opposed to this how can you say you are working in the best interests of Coffs Harbour."
In conclusion he asked each of his fellow councillors who have supported the project so far to consider their oaths when taking office. He addressed each one individually with a member of the public gallery calling out "that is harrassment".
Cr Townley again called a point of order saying Cr Rhoades was implying the councillors opposing his rescission motion were breaching their code of conduct.
5.20: In response to a question from Cr Tegan Swan about costs going up if there are further delays the GM Steve McGrath responded:
"Built into the pricing is a cost escalation component. It's important to understand there is a 3 per cent escalation component. The point is the further out that goes, you need to allow that 3 per cent to grow, so the longer we take to deliver, the costs go up."
A clearly frustrated Mr McGrath reminded the vocal public gallery:
"Council staff are mindful that councillors are split on this.
"We are going over a lot of ground previously covered. We are here to do a job and I understand where councillors are on this matter."