Adelaide Plains Council held a special meeting on Monday December 7 to discuss Two Wells’ much publicised Village Green project, which outlined a shortfall of more than $400,000 following closure of the tender process.
The meeting also saw council redistribute funds from its Open Space Maintenance Fund to the Village Green project to meet this shortfall, which the chamber voiced their concerns about.
The project has been 12 months in the making, with APC receiving $1 million in Federal Government Drought Communities Program (Round 2) funding late last year.
Of this, $700,000 was allocated to the Village Green initiative and $300,000 to other community projects across the district.
A further $186,000 of ratepayer money was redistributed from council’s own budget to the Village Green project.
At the December meeting councillors learnt the project had only attracted two tenders, both of which did not tender for the whole project, and it was now estimated to cost $1.06 million.
APC CEO James Miller said the project’s 100 per cent detailed design was approved in October, and stated that while council was under significant time pressures, he remained “extremely confident” the project deadline of March 31 next year would be met.
Mr Miller acknowledged the “overwhelming” community and business sector support for the project, saying as a result, it was important the project was delivered in its entirety.
“I do commend the project to the chamber, it is seriously exciting, it is highly anticipated and I can’t wait for the official opening at the end of March next year,” he said.
APC’s infrastructure and environment manager, Tom Jones, said local builders and landscapers were approached by council in line with the DCP requirements but only two tenders for varying aspects of the project were received.
“There are reasons for the lack of interest,” he told the chamber.
“It really comes down to pressure on the sector due to federal government, state government initiatives.
“We need to do further work with tenderer two and other local suppliers to ensure we can deliver this project for that sum.
During open discussion Cr Brian Parker questioned whether council was getting value for money.
“It seems to me that for a million dollars I would be expecting at least more than one tender to compare value to ensure the ratepayers get value for money,” he said.
“It will be interesting at the end of this project to see exactly how much this project is going to cost council, and in turn, ratepayers.”
Utilising Open Space Maintenance Fund dollars would provide an opportunity for the elected body to deliver the Village Green project in its entirety with no additional outlay to the public purse, Mr Miller advised.
“This funding stream of course, is specifically aimed at open space, shovel-ready investment,” he said.
Cr Margherita Panella was concerned the council was ignoring a budget it had set with regards to the project.
“I’m not comfortable that we set a budget, you guys have got to make sure that you stick to the budget, you don’t go over it,” she said.
“But it seems suddenly it’s creeping up, creeping up, and that’s not what ratepayers want.
“When we set a budget, that’s the expectation of the CEO, to deliver that budget outcome, so I’m a bit disappointed actually.
Cr Lush agreed with Cr Panella’s sentiments, saying it was a “fair sort of a blow out”.
“If we continue to do business like this we’re going to have a lot of blowouts,” he said.
“Because it’s from the federal government I’m less concerned, it’s a gift, but the $486,000 on top of it, that’s not a gift.”
Cr Marcus Strudwicke weighed into the debate, raising the point APC had not actually set a budget for the project, merely an allocation of funds, and it was only now they were committing to a specific costing based on tenders.
“So then it comes down to do we modify the project to meet the budget or do we modify the budget?” he said.
“It is a lot of increase in money (but) the alternative is that we reduce the scope and do the abridged version.
“I think part of the appeal is that we actually deliver it as a finished project, rather than in dribs and drabs, so it has the most impact in terms of the mood of the town, the excitement of the new development that’s growing in leaps and bounds.
“This site is likely the most visited spot in Two Wells because of the toilets.”
Cr Carmine Di Troia said the council had to move forward positively.
“Yes it’s gone over budget, which is not good, but tell me what projects don’t go over budget?
“We just have to get on the board and get this done and hopefully make Two Wells great.”
Cr Kay Boon closed the debate on the recommendation, imploring the chamber to vote in favour.
“It’s not money that’s gone, it’s money we’re investing in a local area,” she said.
“It’s going to be a beautiful place for people to come, a beautiful place for people to enjoy…we have to deliver it.
“I’m excited for it and I think this an opportunity that we’ve got to take.
The motion was put and carried, with APC mayor Mark Wasley saying “this is probably the first big step we’re taking in Two Wells”.