Cr Margaret O’Neill has voted against committing more funds to Goulburn’s new performing arts centre.
But her colleagues have endorsed pressing ahead with the now estimated $11.4 million complex to be be built at the McDermott Centre.
A report to Tuesday’s council meeting revealed the venue would now cost a conservative $11.4 million. Councillors in June had allowed $8.2m, though acknowledging the budget would be “tight.”
Cr O’Neill told the meeting she was uneasy about committing more.
“I feel this should go out to the community, have a public meeting and see who’s for and against. We have all these projects, the pool, the park etc and we need to get our priorities right,” she said.
On Wednesday she questioned why the council was building a performing arts venue when it already had the Veolia Arena.
“We can’t compete with Sydney concerts,” she said.
“We can’t even get people out to Veolia so how the hell are we going to get them to a performing arts facility in Goulburn?
“I’m very concerned because just like that it’s gone from $8.2m to $11.4m...Before long we’ll be known as the council with no money.”
Cr O’Neill was also worried about accommodating McDermott Centre users like U3A and Senior Citizens.
She said elderly people often contacted her about the cost of living and she was loathe to impose further debt on the community.
“Let’s pay all these other things off first,” she said.
But both general manager Warwick Bennett and Deputy Mayor Alfie Walker said the $8.2m was only an estimate at the time. It had also been clearly stated that some aspects, like geotechnical information and power upgrades, had not been included.
“Throughout the whole process, the budget has been at the forefront of our minds,” Cr Walker said.
But he argued it was more cost effective to include some elements now rather than later. These included an extra 100 seats at balcony level, taking the total to 400 and catering for future growth. It will add $500,000 to the project.
The $11.4m includes $9.1m in construction; $800,000 in fees; $250,000 for a power upgrade, $50,000 for contamination, $50,000 on archaeological; $250,000 for an orchestra pit lift and $900,000 in contingencies.
Relocation of a sewer main ($100,000) and furniture and fit outs ($450,000) have not been included.
“This is an asset the community is crying out for. We need it and this is a great opportunity for Council to provide it,” he said.
Cr Walker told the meeting 400 seats would draw larger events here.
He praised the working party’s input, which included a “broad cross section” of the arts community.
“They worked tremendously hard and tried to stick to the budget, balancing what was needed to future proof the facility,” he said.
“...The $8m was plucked out of the air and we didn’t know what a quantity surveyor would say.”
But he was confident the council could raise the extra money through a combination of loans, grants and its own funds.
Cr Walker said the response to the work so far had been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“I’m confident we will have a facility that everyone can be very proud of,” he said.