November 18, 2020
The possibility of an extra $2.1 million being spent on Kingaroy’s CBD transformation project – taking the total cost to $13.6 million – has alarmed some South Burnett councillors.
At a special meeting on Wednesday, Councillors were shown an alternative design for the Glendon Street section of the project by Kingaroy Transformation Project manager Allen Christensen.
This proposal – which wasn’t included in the designs released to the public earlier this year – would avoid the need to completely close off Glendon Street or substantially reduce car parking spaces, two ideas that proved unpopular during the early days of public consultation.
However, the new design would allow Glendon Street to host a range of outdoor events.
In plans released by Council in February, the Glendon Street area was highlighted as a “shared community zone”.
The new proposal fleshes out this zone.
The stretch of street immediately in front of the Town Hall forecourt would become a landscaped space, with angle parking and shaded areas for pedestrians. Vehicles could still enter the area but the design would discourage heavy traffic use.
Mr Christensen said the concept of a “community zone” had been critical to the success of Council’s funding application.
It tied all the different design elements together, differentiating the Kingaroy project from other similar CBD projects.
In response to a query from Cr Kathy Duff, Mr Christensen confirmed the suggested changes would mean the total cost of the Kingaroy Transformation Project would rise from its previous estimate of $11.5 million to $13.6 million.
Cr Duff said she was alarmed to hear this.
The project’s original budget was partly funded by Council ($4.5 million) and partly by the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions program ($4.5 million).
The $2.5 million balance was to come from the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Ergon and additional funding from Council.
Since the contributions from external agencies are fixed, this means any increase in the total cost of the project would represent a significant extra spend by Council.
Cr Duff said she thought it was “very unwise” to release the project’s latest designs for public comment until Councillors could be certain the money could be found to pay for them.
Mayor Brett Otto noted the bulk of the latest design had already been approved by the public and had not altered significantly in the interim.
He said Councillors were not approving the design additions, just endorsing them for public consideration.
If the public agreed, then Councillors would need to find out how the extra costs could be paid for.
But if the public disagreed, the additions would not be built and the project would proceed as previously planned.
Cr Kirstie Schumacher said she shared Cr Duff’s concerns about taking a plan to the community that had not been fully agreed to or budgeted for.
Mayor Otto noted that Councillors could still decide to approve, reject or modify any part of the plan.
So while he understood Cr Duff and Schumacher’s concerns, he disagreed that putting the revised plan out for public discussion was a backwards step, providing it was made clear the proposed Glendon Street addition would involve extra costs if it were built.
Cr Scott Henschen agreed with the Mayor.
“We only have one chance to get this right and (construction) is over two years,” Cr Henschen said.
Cr Gavin Jones also agreed.
He said Council needed to obtain feedback from the public about the design, but doing this did not commit the Council to anything until budgetary considerations had been addressed.
Councillors then voted to release the revised designs to the public.
The motion was carried 5 to 2, with Councillors Duff and Schumacher opposed.
Mr Christensen told the meeting work on Kingaroy’s Transformation Project would now begin in January.
It was expected to be completed in July 2022, and would support about 57 full-time jobs during construction.
UPDATE November 21: southburnett.com.au understands the proposed increase is actually $2.5 million not $2.1 million as mentioned during the committee meeting.
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Wednesday’s Special Meeting was preceded by a brief debate about Mayor Brett Otto’s ability to discuss the Kingaroy Transformation Project.
Mayor Otto said he had originally excused himself from taking part in any discussions because he was concerned recent Belcarra reforms could potentially expose him to claims of conflict of interest.
However, he had recently sought advice from the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) about the matter.
The LGAQ’s advice was that he had a “declarable” conflict of interest, the Mayor said, but could take part in discussions about the project if fellow councillors agreed.
Mayor Otto said while he was the director of an accounting firm with offices in Kingaroy, he had no direct financial interests in Kingaroy’s CBD.
“We don’t own our offices, we rent them,” the Mayor said.
“And we don’t have any clients in the CBD because our practice specialises in farming enterprises.”
The Mayor then left the room while Councillors debated whether they were happy with this explanation or not.
After some debate, Councillors voted 6-nil to allow Mayor Otto to participate fully in all future Kingaroy project meetings and discussions.
* * *
The discussion about the Glendon Street proposal begins at 27:06.
* * *
- Info Sessions About Streetscape
- Final Streetscape Plans Unveiled
- $11.3m Facelift Gets Green Light
- Council Unveils $11m CBD Plans
- Third Try For Streetscape Grant
- Council Seeks State Funds For CBD
- Council Misses Out On $4m Grant
- Council Drafts $8m Streetscape Plan
- Council Delays CBD Upgrade
- Kingaroy Streetscape Put On Hold
- CBD Ideas Draw Few Responses
- Reaction To Streetscape ‘Positive’
- Meet The Future Face Of Kingaroy
- Business Meetings For CBD Project
- Public Meetings On Kingaroy CBD Upgrade
- Kingaroy Streetscape Plans Progressing
- Consultants Working On Concept Plan
- Council Plans $8m CBD Upgrade
[UPDATED with correction]