HORSHAM Rural City Council has assured the community council services will be unaffected by a $200,000 increase in the Horsham Town Hall and art gallery budget.
A recommendation to increase the budget generated lengthy discussion at council’s meeting on Monday night.
Council staff sought an increase of $317,000 to the project’s contingency budget. Councillors approved an extra $200,000.
The increase will come from council’s 2013-14 surplus and other reserved income.
Council chief executive Peter Brown said increased costs were necessary.
“When council awarded the main contract for the project in November 2013, the contingency allowance was set at $750,000, or around five per cent of the main construction cost,” he said.
“This contingency was in recognition of risks such as soil conditions, the state of the existing building and the interface of the heritage-listed hall and the new building.
“Unfortunately some variations, in particular the presence of soil contamination, did eventuate.”
Mr Brown said council had made cost-saving changes to the project, including changing the carpet selection in the foyer, and reducing the scope of floor sanding in the town hall.
He said the project control group was considering reinstating some elements removed as part of cost-saving, including a disabled-access stair lift, restoring balcony seats and replacing old carpet in the art gallery.
Cr Tony Phelan presented the motion that council commit $200,000 to the contingency budget.
Cr David Grimble successfully amended the motion to separate the contingency and scope elements, with much debate among councillors.
Cr Grimble said he encouraged the discussion.
“It draws out a lot of views. To make good decisions, we need to express views openly,” he said.
”We have an obligation to complete the bricks and mortar part of the project, and to complete the project to budget.”
Cr Phelan said council needed to get on and finish the project.
“We are obligated to see it to completion at a respectable outcome. Whether that’s contingency or scope items, to my mind, doesn’t matter,” he said.
Council expects project construction to be finished later this year, with the new town hall and art gallery operational in early 2016.