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How hall ‘refurbishment’ became demolition

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Published in THE CHRONICLE, Friday, August 11, 2006 – Page 3
City defends tender process
How hall ‘refurbishment’ became demolition
By PHILIP NOLAN

THE Rural City of Wangaratta has denied it went outside its tender brief in accepting a proposal to demolish the existing town hall to make way for the planned new performing arts centre.

This is despite the fact the brief specifically says the project is to “construct a 500 to 600 seat performing arts auditorium amalgamated with, and adjacent to, buildings known as the Wangaratta Memorial Town Hall and Playhouse Theatre”.

The brief further says the city’s vision is to construct an arts centre that “is connected to existing facilities in a seamless architectural design and to refurbish the existing facilities and complex in a compatible design and fit out”.

And in the “Project aims and objectives”, the brief says the council “is seeking funding from the State Government to jointly fund the refurbishment of the Wangaratta Memorial Town Hall and construct a performing arts centre”.

Council received responses from three firms, with all three following the brief but indicating that the price would be well in excess of the upper figure of $6.7m allowed by council.

One of the three firms, however, submitted a second proposal which involved the demolition of the existing facility and construction of the new arts centre within the allowed budget.

Council then accepted this lender, but has since run into a storm of protest with a 6000 strong local petition opposing demolition of the existing town hall.

Ratepayer Greg Naylor raised the issue in the “letters” section of last Friday’s Chronicle, pointing out that “nowhere in the design brief does it mention that the current facilities can be demolished”.

“Surely this is not fair to the other tenderers and surely council cannot guarantee that it has achieved best value for money when only one organisation submitted a demolition option. Usual council practice is to reject non-conforming tenders outright. This entire process has been outrageous,” Mr Naylor said.

However, city chief executive officer, Doug Sharp, said yesterday that council was comfortable that it had followed a “sound” process.

Mr Sharp said that all three interested firms had an option under the terms of the contract and had been encouraged to submit a ‘creative and innovative’ concept, and this had been reiterated at an on-site inspection in February of this year.

The tender brief asked tenders to submit two design schematics.

“All three had the same opportunity, but only one took it up.

“Everyone has been treated equally and reasonably, and it has been a very sound tender process,” Mr Sharp said.


Watchdog comment

The ‘Rural City of Spin‘ must be admired for its ‘creative and innovative’ tendering process.

The handling of contract C0506/014 for the refurbishment of the Memorial Town Hall and the development of a Performing Arts Centre shows a bureaucratic council determined to walk over its electors in its grab for cash.

Nowhere in the documentation will you find an invitation for the architects to be, ‘creative and innovative’ as CEO Doug Sharp said in the Chronicle article (11.Aug.06).

We can only assume that the invitation must have been verbal. Was it a throw away line such as, “Don’t worry about the tender requirements, just give us a building to fit the budget so that we can get hold of the governmenmt’s $5,000,000”.

The tender brief introduction, having spelled out the preservation of the town hall, stated that “The proposal was supported by and meets the vision of the Wangaratta community’.

When the community presented the petition of 5,500 community signatures, the council responded with a public meeting and a full page Chronicle advertisement to sway the community to its way of thinking.

Since then the petition numbers have grown to more than 6.500.

The council now announces it will conduct an in-house survey to once again convince us that one third of the adult population should not be heard.

As previously stated in the Watchdog, experience shows that authorities do not hold public meetings or conduct surveys unless they know the outcome before the event.

Surveys are notorious for offering a choice of options to suit that outcome. The recent RCoW survey on the mobile library van that is nearing it’s use-by date offered about four options – not one of them was to replace the vehicle.

We wait with baited breath for the survey questions designed to provide the required outcome and to supercede the more than 6,000 petition signatures who objected to the demolition of the Memorial Town Hall.


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Written by Greg Naylor

11 August 2006 at 6:23 pm

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