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Council office costs head North

The Northumberland Hotel project is now an election issue
The Northumberland Hotel project is now an election issue Renee Pilcher

BIG money concerns emerged yesterday over the claimed failure of Gympie Regional Council's multi-million-dollar Northumberland Hotel investment.

Mayor Ron Dyne denied claims by election rival Mick Venardos that he had mishandled public money in trying to atone for the inadequacies of the Northumberland project.

Mr Venardos said the hotel building had failed to achieve its staff accommodation objectives, prompting even more serious issues with the unauthorised spending of $60,000-plus a year on alternative accommodation.

Cr Dyne yesterday denied there was anything wrong with his decision to renew the Old Post Office building lease, despite admitting that the major spending commitment had never been adopted at a council meeting.

The North's purchase was originally intended to provide accommodation for staff from both the town planning and engineering design departments.

While it has enabled planning staff to move out of their previous headquarters, in an enclosed under-building car park condemned by workplace health and safety inspectors, further workplace health and safety advice meant that the new building was also inadequate, if it also had to house engineering design employees (as originally planned).

Mr Venardos yesterday claimed that no feasibility study or business plan had been prepared for the North project.

"I and many people ask why this council would complete a contract to buy a building for $1.45 million, spend $1.91 million on a rebuild and external works without first determining the suitability of that building for council office use?"

He said the building could not house the engineering design department and those staff would now have to continue to work from the Old Post Office.

Cr Dyne said councillors were aware of his decision to renew the Old Post Office lease, but admitted it had not had the backing of a council vote.

But The Gympie Times is aware of some councillors who claim to have been unaware of the decision.

"Not every lease has to come to the councillors' attention," Cr Dyne said.

However, Mr Venardos said any spending on that scale required a council resolution.

Topics:  budget costs council investment northumberland hotel

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