The $2 million refurbishment of the former Nanango Shire Council chambers is the cheapest option open to the South Burnett Regional Council, Mayor Keith Campbell says.
He said it would also save ratepayers’ money and would have no effect on rates.
On Tuesday, Mayor Campbell responded to social media criticism of Council’s plan for the building.
The criticism erupted after an outline of the refurbishments was unveiled at a public meeting last Wednesday night.
The Mayor said the Nanango building had already had a lot of money spent on it.
In 2014 the Council spent $170,000 to correct underground drainage issues on the site, which caused a section of the adjoining Nanango Cultural Centre’s floor to rot and require replacement.
He said Council now faced a further $381,500 maintenance bill on the Drayton Street building.
This money would need to be spent on replacing the building’s 30-year-old air conditioning system, which was nearing the end of its life.
More money would also have to be spent on correcting the building’s box drainage channels which were so badly deteriorated they let water in every time there was heavy rain and damaged the building’s facade.
He said ageing electrical and data cabling systems, which had already caused two fires, also had to be replaced.
Mayor Campbell said a key cause of the high maintenance costs was not only the building’s age, but also its unusual construction.
The original building had other buildings added to it over time, and had never been planned as a single structure.
“The future of this building has been under discussion in Council since 2016, and a full building assessment was carried out in 2017,” Mayor Campbell said.
“We were given four options, which were to demolish the building and build a new one from scratch on the site; demolish and build a new one on a different site; refurbish the existing building; or move the 70 staff who work there to other Council facilities outside Nanango.”
The Mayor said Councillors had immediately ruled out moving staff because of the impact it would have on Nanango’s economy.
“But since demolition and rebuilding was likely to cost $4 million or more, we chose refurbishment instead,” he said.
“Spending $2 million now will extend the building’s life an estimated 30 years, give Nanango a modern new library, reduce future maintenance costs to about $4000 a year and ensure our staff have a safe environment to work in.”
The Mayor said the social media comments implied Council hadn’t done its homework.
He believed the opposite was the case.
“We are very disciplined in the way we use depreciation funds, and we do it honestly and transparently,” he said.
“We chose the cheapest of the three options and announced our plans last year, then put the project out to public tender, then held a public consultation meeting last week to explain our plan.
“No one at that meeting expressed any concerns about the cost or seemed to think what we were doing was a bad idea.
“There was more concern about the Energy Centre, which we’ll be using to house the library for a while when refurbishment work gets under way.”
The Mayor said concerns about the impact the project might have on rates, or calls to spend the money on roads instead, were not correct.
“This project will be paid for by a combination of Works For Queensland funds from the State Government and Council’s own depreciation funds,” he said.
“By law, the money set aside in Council’s depreciation fund for buildings can only be spent on maintaining Council’s building assets, not put into roads.
“This money has already been set aside, so spending the $2 million won’t have any effect on rates, either.”