Issues: Aquatic Centre
On March 31 the General Manager of Hornsby Council signed off on a report regarding the financing of the Berowra Aquatic Centre. It seems to me that this report shows a distinct bias against building the Aquatic Centre at Berowra.
I ask you to take a careful look at it, (click here), and note the inflammatory nature of its wording. I would also ask that the you recall that for more than 25 years the council has been promising a Swimming Facility for Berowra.
Here are a few comments on its contents:
Para 3: A costly feasibility study that councillors insisted on running stated that the Aquatic Centre would need to comprise the complete proposed complex of buildings - including Gym and Sauna - if it was to break even. The decision was made that, in the light of costing, council would commit to the total project. Yet council then chose to build a learn-to-swim facility as the initial stage of the Berowra Aquatic Centre, seeing this as a better way for funding and revenue return. The proposal was to provide for the expansion to stage 2.
Para 5: A quantity surveyor prepared a cost-estimate for council of $2.63 million, and council added project management costs that brought it up to $3million. However, the project management costs would be similar if the total project was undertaken in one go. Building the Aquatic Centre in stages increases the project management costs considerably.
It was always council's intention to part-fund the pool from some money put aside by residents for this purpose in earlier years, plus the sale of land behind the Baby Health Centre that council owns and would develop.
Para 5: the centre is not expected to break even. It seems to me that council has designed this project to fail by not committing itself to build the Centre as proposed by the feasibility study.
Para 6: Councillors have expressed the view that proceeds of the sale of the council depot in Burdett St could be used to fund the pool. The report goes on to claim that the funds then couldn't be used for other issues. The writer must be some clever accountant! Was he or she on board at the time of the Bio-Remediation extravagance, which lost us ratepayers over $4 millions?
Page 3: Says that additional loan borrowings of $3M are financially unsustainable and should not be contemplated by council. Does this advice come from the same clever accountant? Was this the accountant who used over $25 millions of our money to buy us a hole in the ground, and now wants to use more than twice that amount of our money to remediate the situation - which will almost certainly be to the benefit of property developers, but not to the benefit of us, the residents?
Page 4: The ABS statistics are only quoted for the 0-4 children age group in 2006 (before Child Bonus really kicked in) and exclude primary school age group and an increase in the ageing population. More clever accounting?
Page 4: Says: We find it is unlikely that the pool could be built on the current proposed site adjacent to the community centre, incorporating the approved facilities and for less than $3M. Council has the option to pursue lesser cost options. This may be so, but why pursue them now, in the middle of the current process, which has taken three years to progess from proposal, study and DA?
Suggests council can build a learn-to-swim pool in Mt Kuringai at lesser cost? Unproven and not in a user friendly position, therefore probably less likely to be revenue positive. These issues were thought through previously, so why bring them up again?
How much did council spend recently on a seminar to promote reducing our carbon foot print?
Page 4: Council should embark on a comprehensive review of the existing pool facilities. The aquatic centres committee is surely reviewing this annually. Residents and ratepayers had problems accessing Hornsby pool this past summer, but surely this is under constant review - or why does council continue with what appear to be ineffective committees and possibly ineffective staff? This of course would be a good way to slow down any progress that might be made. It would also make the available feasibility study and DA out of date, which means more time and more of our money wasted down the track.
Option 1 - Cancel the Project. It was assumed that council does not support this option, yet it is becoming increasingly likely that Council does support it, an option that is probably driven by the bureaucracy and supported by councillors who have little vision and less drive.
Is the report writer using the fact that council is coming to the end of its term and, considering the issues it has had to face and the bad will it has generated, is somewhat shell-shocked and battered, and probably glad it's all nearly over?
The long-promised Aquatic Centre at Berowra is high on our list of current issues. This has been going to be constructed for nearly thirty years - yes, 30 years! The site has been identified, plans and surveys undertaken, $300,000 set aside (when $300,000 would have been enough to make a substantial start), and yet we're still waiting. The latest move by councillors is to begin the process all over again with another feasibility study by a consultant paid for by us!
There are nearly 2,000 primary school children in our District, with no public pool in which to learn to swim. Besides these primary schoolers, there are also hundreds of pre-schoolers and high school students, to say nothing of teenagers and adults, all without adequate swimming facilities for keeping fit and healthy - let alone for training.
Other swimming facilities in more distant parts of the Shire are overcrowded to the point where people sometimes can't even gain admittance.
The Aquatic Centre in Berowra should be designated as 'shire-wide' and built with the use of some - but not the whole of - Section 94 funds.
There are compelling reasons for doing this:
Last Wednesday, 14th February, our group went to council to support Item 14 "Proposed Berowra Aquatic Centre". Here we go again, well hopefully not; as was said by one of our councillors at the last meeting attended in 2006, regarding the latest Feasibility Study, "We are the one council closest to gaining approval for Berowra's Pool". In short, this report, No. WK10/07, was accepted unanimously, after our Ward A councillor, Cr McMurdo motioned all recommendations be accepted.
The recommendations are:
The B&DCA applaud the council for taking this much needed project to the next level. We would like all those who believe in this project to communicate their support either by phone, mail or email. We need to keep this shire wide facility on the roll, so our 1100 school students in our eight local schools and our growing number of mature residents or even just the average Ward A resident, can access a facility to enhance quality of life through safe swimming and hydro relaxation.
Have your say!
You can e-mail the mayor and councillors of Hornsby Shire about these matters from this website. In just two clicks you can send an e-mail message to the mayor and councillors.