Swimming in Debt?
What’s happening with Manly’s new indoor swim centre? It’s still not clear how much the controversial building will cost. And its size and shape seem to be different from the plan.
The pool’s original budget was $15M but that had been upgraded to $21M by late last year. There was an attempt to hide the costs behind “commercial in confidence” claims, but they were published last December in the Manly Daily anyway following a report to Council at the December 2014 meeting. There have been no detailed updates, even for councillors, since then, although the budget is now believed to have reached $22.5M.
“I am concerned that despite numerous formal requests for detailed updates on this major project, which is clearly over the stated budget of $15M, these requests by independent councillors have been blocked”, said Good For Manly Councillor, Candy Bingham
This month a rescission motion formally asking General Manager,Henry Wong, to prepare a financial report on the project, including the revised budget and amounts spent on the work to date, was finally approved.
Clr Bingham said she welcomed the push for more information, but was not hopeful it would succeed. “I’ve requested this information many times. In the meantime we are still waiting for the costs to date for the Manly2015 Plan, which Council formally requested in April”.
“I’m a councillor and I’m supposed to represent Manly residents and ratepayers. I can’t do that if I don’t have access to basic financial information about the council’s biggest projects to date.”
Concerns have also been raised about the design of the Indoor Swim Centre which appears to be larger than the approved DA.
Local resident group Ivanhoe Precinct says that the design of the western facade has clearly changed. The building also seems to be getting bigger as there are now eight, up from seven, roof “sails” and eight, not seven, vertical supports on the eastern facade. (Images below)
The precinct has written to the council noting that the original construction plan was approved, as required, by the Joint Regional Planning Panel in December 2014. They asked who had approved the modifications and when; and called for the amended plans to be displayed. Like the precinct, Manly councillors have not been told about the changes to the swimming pool plan.
In the meantime Clr Barbara Aird has been pushing tirelessly in an attempt to uncover the cost of repeated road work on Kenneth Rd. Since building started on the indoor centre, Kenneth Rd has become the only place for swimmers to park. But spectacularly bad planning by the council meant parking and traffic arrangements on the road have needed to be changed three times. Even now, safety concerns raised by users of the swim centre, have not been properly addressed.
To date General Manager Henry Wong, has responded to requests for information by saying only that the pool budget was “within the contingency allocation”.
In responding to the Council resolution this month, he signalled there may be “commercial in confidence” issues and that some items would not be included as they were part of projects other than the pool redevelopment. He also asked for two months, rather than one month, to prepare the report.
The costings, as stated in the Report to Council on 8th December 2014, page 20 were:
■ Indoor Swim Centre: $17.7 million
■ Heat pump and energy plant: $1.5 million
■ External works & provision for remediation: $1.6 million
■ Total: $20.8 million
A separate budget has been allowed for the LM Graham Reserve amenities block of $1.5 million. As well the council has paid an estimated $1.5 million in fees for architects and other professionals.
Candy Bingham, Former Councillor Manly Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.