Office plan revised

The estimated cost of the proposed new office in Millicent for Wattle Range Council has blown out to $9.2m.

Council voted in 2020 to favour a new structure on the North Terrace parklands with a cap of $5.5m.

It received a now-public estimate of $11.4m several months ago, prompting a revision of the original preferred plans.

The office proposal is the subject of an 11-page report by council chief executive Ben Gower which forms part of the agenda for the June monthly council meeting this afternoon.

He noted the revised plans estimated at $9.2m have some cost-cutting measures, are a smaller area by 10% and some aspects like an outdoor dining area and covered walkways have been removed.

Mr Gower has recommended council endorse the revised plans and instruct its architects to proceed to the detailed documentation phase of the project.

“If council elects to proceed to the next stage, it is expected to take four months for the architects to finish the detailed documentation phase of this project,” Mr Gower said

“This documentation provides prospective tenderers with the level of detail they need to quote for this work should council elect to proceed to the procurement phase of the project.

“Given that Local Government elections will be held later this year, any decision to tender for and award a contract to build the office will need to be made by the new council in 2023.”

According to Mr Gower, the actual cost to build the office will not be known until council determines to run a competitive tender process.

“There is a considerable amount of locality loading and contingency built into these estimates and in some instances – contingency has been applied to contingency,” he said.

“The estimate also includes projected price escalations for a forecast build in November 2023 and the estimate will continue to escalate if the project moves beyond that date.”

Wattle Range Council currently has 66 administrative staff who are currently housed in the main Millicent office and two nearby leased offices.

Today’s meeting follows a special council meeting in Millicent a week ago when council endorsed its $31m 2022/23 draft budget which included an operating deficit of $3.1m and a 5.4% increase in rate revenue.

Meanwhile, council’s Development Assessment Panel will meet via zoom technology tomorrow (Wednesday) to consider the plans for the proposed new office on North Terrace.

A consultant planner has prepared a 161-page report and recommended conditional development approval be granted.

The public notification period attracted six responses and these form part of the agenda for the development assessment panel.

Furner grazier John Andre said the location was totally inappropriate for a large administration centre.

“Firstly, it is right out of the town area when it should be part of the town community enabling some 72 administrative staff to access the cafes and shops and for community members to visit while in the business area without having to drive or gopher out of town,” Mr Andre said.

“This is a green mostly open space of parklands with some sporting facilities and playgrounds where an administration centre plus 92 car parking spaces would certainly be inappropriate and would be regretted by future generations when other options were available.”

Independent Millicent stock agent John Chay also said he was opposed to the new office.

“It will send council broke and we need better roads first,” Mr Chay said.

Millicent grazier Andy Ellis said he felt the public did not receive enough consultation.

“We the public are the ones paying for the council expenses,” he said.

Former Furner resident Roger Andre said Wattle Council should be looking 100 years ahead when Millicent parklands will be “more precious than ever”.

“Parklands should never be treated as cheap real estate,” Mr Andre said.

“The new council offices should not be built on parklands and the proposed site is too far from central Millicent to enhance the town’s development in any event.

“Council should not compound the regrettable precedents of allowing the building of a garage and a fast-food outlet on parklands in complete contradiction to their intended use.”

Responses to the matters raised by the respondents were provided by council’s engineering manager Peter Halton and form part of the agenda.

Mr Halton explained the site selection process and how the construction costs would be met.

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