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Hall To Get $460,000 Upgrade

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Cr Spud Jones is proud of the Blackbutt Memorial Hall, and happy that a $460,000 upgrade to the hall's grounds has gained approval from most of his fellow Councillors; the hall's side balcony now directly fronts the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and could one day become a coffee shop

July 20, 2017

Blackbutt’s relocated Memorial Hall will get its $460,000 infrastructure upgrade as planned, despite Council failing to secure a $250,000 contribution from the State Government.

At Wednesday’s South Burnett Regional Council meeting, councillors voted to push ahead with the project, using money from the Council’s depreciation fund to pay for the upgrade.

Cr Ros Heit told the meeting that while she still thought the relocation of the hall to make way for a supermarket was a good idea, she was concerned about the rush, particularly as residents had been told there would be no cost to Council to move the hall.

She said essential work should be completed in time for the avocado festival, but a decision on the rest of the work – including the car park – should wait for six months to allow the plan to be more closely scrutinised.

However, Cr Gavin Jones argued that since Council would be doing all the work, it was wiser to do it now rather than defer parts because it would only be more expensive in the future.

Cr Jones said reports Council was going to build a $500,000 car park were not correct.

He said as well as the bitumen car park, the money would be spent on extending water and sewer mains to the hall’s new site and connecting the building to these services; connecting power; building a stormwater drainage system; building an entrance roadway; and installing footpaths, landscaping and street lighting.

He said the car park was only a small part of the total project costs.

Cr Jones also said the application to the State Government’s Building Our Regions grants program for a $250,000 co-contribution was based on an initial estimate, which had now been revised.

The project was now expected to cost $460,000, less a $50,000 contribution by the supermarket developer.

Cr Jones argued that Council’s own building rules also had to be obeyed.

“There is no debate that the work has to be done because they are our Council’s development approval conditions that we’ve imposed on ourselves,” Cr Jones said

Cr Jones said the Council had already set aside $250,000 towards the hall’s upgrade cost in this year’s Budget by deciding to defer a plant purchase, and with a $50,000 contribution from the supermarket developer its own extra contribution would be $160,000.

He said the amount in question was trivial given the Council spends an average $15 million a year on capital works projects.

The $160,000 would come from Council’s Water and Waste Capital Works budget ($70,000), the Property Portfolio Capital Works budget ($75,000) and $15,000 of leftover capital from the 2016-17 Budget.

Cr Jones also asked the meeting to consider what Council had saved by getting the developer to modernise the hall as part of the relocation by upgrading its kitchen, replacing the roof, and installing new toilets and disability ramps.

“(This) would have come to an estimated $300,000 to $350,000 (and) if the project to remove the hall did not proceed, it still would have cost Council thousands of dollars over the next period of time to deal with those outstanding maintenance issues,” Cr Jones said.

“When considered in this light, the costs Council are picking up now has simply brought forward some of the costs that this Council would have been responsible for at some time in the near future.”

Cr Jones also reminded Councillors that while the $250,000 Building Our Regions grant had not been successful, Council had received a windfall $8.5 million from the Works For Queensland program that was allowing it to attend to many other outstanding maintenance issues around the region.

This meant the South Burnett was well ahead overall.

The motion to proceed with the upgrade was carried 6-1, with Cr Heit opposed.

* * *

Last week Cr Jones gave a look inside the almost completed hall, which is expected to be officially handed back to Council later this month so the final upgrades can start.

We can report the Memorial Hall looks just as good as it did in its former location – or even better, when the improvements to the kitchen and toilets are taken into consideration – and the joins where sections were cut for the move are impossible to see.

Cr Jones said he believed most opposition to the hall’s relocation was based on fears it would fall to pieces if it were moved.

But now Blackbutt residents could see it safe and sound in its new location, those fears were evaporating and excitement was taking its place.

He estimated the developer’s costs to move the hall and carry out upgrades to the building were “well in excess” of the initial $200,000 estimate, and praised them for their dedication to turning in a first-rate job.

He said this was a very positive sign the town’s new supermarket would also be a great success.

“I’ve had residents tell me they’ve taken their house off the market because the supermarket is coming, and I know of at least one developer who’s thinking about re-entering the market here when the supermarket is built,” Cr Jones said.

“Blackbutt is one of the South Burnett’s growth towns, no mistake, and I think this project will go down in history as a turning point in this town’s development.”

[UPDATED with correction]

Cr Jones shows off the site of the hall's future parking lot; one change to initial plans has been to dispense with a complicated ramp/stair arrangement at the hall's entrance

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