Aquatic Centre blowout denied, site costs 'not construction'

Aquatic centre under construction in Gympie.
Aquatic centre under construction in Gympie.

DECONTAMINATION expenses for the Gympie Aquatic Centre site, a former Gympie Regional Council works depot, appear to have caused further cost blowouts for the project.

But Mayor Mick Curran - who has criticised The Gympie Times for reporting the decontamination effort and other site preparation costs as part of the centre's construction cost - says it is all under control.

He says it is wrong to suggest a $17 million cost estimate for the project has blown out to $22.5 million, because the extra $5.2 million is not strictly a construction cost (although it does include construction-linked costs such as site work, specification upgrades and design costs).

Cr Curran also denies any further blowouts, despite a widespread belief that decontamination work has been a bigger job than expected.

Questioned by councillors Hilary Smerdon and Glen Hartwig at the most recent council general meeting, Cr Curran said all the costs of removing contaminated material and transporting it to Swanbank, near Ipswich, for disposal are provided for in $1.55 million contingency plans already built in to the project's cost estimates.

Other costs, also built in to the $22.5 million (though not part of Cr Curran's $17 million construction-only estimate) include "authority fees and charges" ($195,000), "design fees and project management" ($1.71 million), "roadworks" ($1 million) and "specification upgrade of shade structure and solar" ($802,000).

The distinction between construction costs and "design fees," "project management", "roadworks" and "specification upgrades"may seem a fine one to many and could be one reason council financial statements have recently been described by staff as hard to understand.

Councillors last week were told State Government auditors had engaged in "robust discussion around some matters".

Financial issues are among a range of issues facing Gympie Regional Council, which is also under scrutiny over the resignation of former engineering director Bob Fredman.

And the neighbouring Fraser Coast Regional Council also has problems.

A Local Government Department spokeswoman has told The Gympie Times "the department has been made aware of community concerns at the Gympie Regional Council" and has received "a number of complaints relating to the Fraser Coast (from Gundiah and Tiaro northwards)".

It was aware of "some (Fraser Coast) issues referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission".

The department "carefully considers correspondence," the spokeswoman said.

Fraser Coast Mayor Chris Loft has told the Local Government Department he wants an investigation into financial "anomalies".

Gympie Times

Topics:  gympie, gympie aquatic and recreation centre, gympie regional council

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