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QPRC HQ still uncertain, but demolition works flagged

Question raised re caretaker timing of EDE contract.

By District Bulletin Council Watch.

THE FATE OF the proposed new council administration building, public space and underground parking in Queanbeyan remain uncertain, with no word on whether the NSW Police will occupy two of six proposed levels.

More than a month since the new council approved financing arrangements for the $57 million project (at its first full meeting) the project remains in limbo. While the council has declined to identify the tenant with whom it is negotiating a lease, it was (informally) confirmed to the Bulletin to be the NSW police. Related story.

The District Bulletin understands that police hold concerns about basic operational matters such as conveying detained people to the courthouse. Currently police use a tunnel between the station and the courthouse but this arrangement won’t be available in the new building.

Instead, they face the prospect of driving 50 metres down the road to ferry people to court.

It’s also unclear whether Corrective Services staff in the current Queanbeyan police station would move with police to the QPRC HQ.

No word from the NSW government about plans for the site of the current police station if police move to the QPRC HQ. Council has state a desired headquarters completion date of March 2019, parallel with the NSW elections.

Expensive demolition flagged, seniors find satisfactory site

Despite the uncertainty, council is moving to demolish the old administration building in Crawford St at a cost of almost $500,000.  The site is to be used for a temporary car park.

A single building is sought to consolidate council staff who are now scattered across the CBD and additional staff since amalgamation. Originally a new administration building was to be constructed on the site of the current building. It was a more modest proposal at a fraction of the $57 million cost. Underground water infrastructure constraints have been cited against this proposal.

Word is that the council thinks it can earn more in rent from the police for two levels in the proposed HQ than it will cost to build the two additional floors. However, no detailed costing has been made available to support this view and senior staff confirmed at a community information meeting in Queanbeyan on 7 November that no formal cost-benefit analysis of the project had been undertaken.

The Queanbeyan seniors group that was ordered to leave their centre at the rear of the old administration building has found a short-term meeting space thanks to the Salvation Army who are providing a room. Council will cover the rent for this interim arrangement.

EDE: does contract breach local government caretaker rules?

Residents living along the alignment of the Ellerton Drive Extension (EDE) have received an offer from the contractor to survey their homes before construction work starts. This forms a baseline in the event of any property damage. Any claims for compensation for damage will be handled by Roads and Maritime Services’ insurer.

Community critics of the EDE have learned that residents have no recourse to an independent arbiter if they disagree with an assessment by RMS’s insurer, pitting residents against a state agency. They note there is no compensation available for disrupted sleep, poor air quality or no longer being able to use outdoor space.

Responses to council public forum questions posed by a resident confirm what opponents of the EDE suspected: that the contract to build the road was awarded during the local government election caretaker period. On the face of it, this breaches the caretaker regulations that prohibit awarding a contract valued above $150,000 and/or for a contentious development.

Council argues that RMS (not subject to the caretaker rules) is the responsible party, not it. But an agreement between RMS and the council, signed on 31 July 2017, is understood to appoint RMS to act on council’s behalf. Council refused to release the agreement and gave no reason.

Opportunities to comment

Council has released a draft community strategic plan for the next 10 years. It will shape council spending priorities during the term of the council (to September 2020). Comments close on 1 December.

A proposal for using the restored heritage building Rusten House, Queanbeyan’s first hospital, as a community arts centre has also been released. Comments are due by 30 November.

Council also plans to release a draft integrated transport strategy and a draft regional economic and tourism strategy before the end of the year. Online access to these exhibition documents is expected to be available in about 12 months.

Community information meetings will be held in Bungendore on 9 November and in Braidwood on 14 November, at the council offices and the old library respectively, starting at 6 pm. You can add items to the meeting agenda by contacting council at communications@qprc.nsw.gov.au or call 6285 6000.

 


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