The council general manager says the addition of a fly tower to Goulburn's proposed Performing Arts Centre (PAC) is affordable.
Warwick Bennett also argues the tower will provide far more flexibility for the facility, to be built at the McDermott Centre.
Councillors decided seven votes to two on Tuesday night to include the fly tower, allowing quick changes of lighting, scenery, special effects and even performers, in the now $18.95 million project. It followed an economic analysis including and excluding the structure and considerable debate about its affordability.
Crs Margaret O'Neill and Sam Rowland saw the extra $450,000 cost as a bridge too far and voted against.
Cr Rowland said the cost was "excessive."
"I believe $18,950,000 (including an $800,000 contingency) is grossly over-priced. I can see the facility being grossly under-utilised and have very little confidence the project will come in under budget," he said.
But that wasn't the majority view. Councillors agreed to accept the $16,466, 243 amended price from Zauner Constructions to build the centre. Their price dropped following design changes to bring it within the previous $18.5m budget but it also now includes the tower.
Mr Bennett said further savings had been achieved through council assuming direct design costs for the fly tower and taking out contract works and public liability insurance on behalf of the builders. The latter would have cost $68,100 but the council, as a large organisation, was able to secure a cheaper rate and save $45,000. Zauner Constructions will repay the insurance amount.
He told The Post the centre was affordable, particularly given recent windfalls. The council recently reclaimed $1.2 million from defaulted investments as a result of a class action. It also recovered $136,000 in legal costs associated with the Marulan Islamic Cemetery Land and Environment Court matter.
Further, the council will borrow $6.3m of the overall PAC cost from its internal reserves at two to three per cent interest. Mr Bennett said this was lower than what Tcorp (NSW Treasury) could offer and would result in "significant savings."
He said travelling shows that changed scenery often required a fly tower and it would loan enormous flexibility to them and local performances.
"There is a real circuit between big regional centres taking in Albury, Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Bathurst, the Shoalhaven, Queanbeyan, Canberra and Goulburn," he said.
"There are huge opportunities for shows and different organisations wanting to come here. It's going to be brilliant. It will just be another step (towards) Goulburn becoming a very mature city offering all types of services."
Funding will come from:
- General fund - $1,45m;
- Grant funding - $7.5m;
- Reserve fund (Lilac Time Hall sale proceeds) - $1,252,081;
- Reserve fund (Multi-purpose venue) - $488,123;
- Reserve fund (Section 94A) - $459,796;
- Loans - $6.3m (internal borrowings);
- Land sales - $1.5m
Operations director Matt O'Rourke said two grants from the Regional Cultural Fund and the National Stronger Regions Fund had completion dates of June 19 and June 30, 2020 respectively. Terms would have to be renegotiated given that the PAC's construction wouldn't be finished until February, 2021.
The amended design, which also lowers the building height by several metres, removes balcony seating and relocates some mechanical equipment to the roof and includes the fly tower, will require a modified development consent.
Mr O'Rourke said he would seek approval under a section of the planning act that covered amendments with "minimum environmental impact." The Joint Regional Planning Planning Panel approved the original application in December, 2017.
I understand the limitations of a half-built theatre and the compromises we make on a daily basis.Chrisjohn Hancock
He furnished a report from theatre consultant Richard Stuart to the meeting, outlining the pros and cons of including and excluding a fly tower. The document cost $20,000.
"Richard recommends inclusion of the fly tower to bring it in line with the best regional arts centres. This conclusion is also supported by industry consultation," Mr O'Rourke wrote in his report.
Lieder Theatre director Chrisjohn Hancock said he was tired of continually "making compromises" to accommodate productions.
The artistic director of the past 25 years told Tuesday night's council meeting that the ageing facility posed many challenges.
"I understand the limitations of a half-built theatre and the compromises we make on a daily basis," he said
"...Today's competition for audiences (means) that you need as much technology and resources as possible to create the magic and spectacle to attract audiences.
"A fly tower would be invaluable and, in my opinion, an essential asset to Goulburn's PAC, (giving) a versatile public performance venue to be proud of that will offer modern and creative options to all potential users."
Quizzed by Cr O'Neill on how often the Lieder would use the space, Mr Hancock said it would very much depend on the fee structure, given the Lieder had its own costs to foot.
He argued the PAC's management was crucial to usage but said the venue was potentially so versatile, it could be used as much more than a theatre.
Southern Tablelands Regional Arts (STARTS) chief executive, Susan Conroy is part of a group that set up a Facebook page to support the PAC.
She told councillors she'd researched regional theatres with and without fly towers and the latter usually had higher operational costs.
"The message came through loud and clear that if you don't do a fly tower now you will never be able to retrofit it," she said.
But Tempe Hornibrook maintained her opposition to the location. Based on audiences at recent performances, she doubted the PAC would draw large audiences.
"Don't lumber the community with the cost of this white elephant," she said, drawing analogies with the Highland Source pipeline.
However Deputy Mayor Peter Walker supported the extra expenditure, saying the fly tower was integral to attracting a wide range of performances.
"I think we are opening ourselves up to a whole new market," he said.
Cr Walker congratulated the staff for "listening to the community" and negotiating design amendments that meant the project was financially achievable.
But Cr O'Neill suspected a cost blowout, arguing staff didn't know what lay underneath the building.
Mr O'Rourke replied that the cost included archaeology and excavation at the rear. Two archaeological consents had been granted but there was more work to do underneath the 1930s section to be demolished.
The council decision means architects Brewster Hjorth can prepare a detailed design for the amended scope, including the fly tower.
Groundwork is forecast to start in October and the centre finished by February, 2021.