A tender for Bowral Memorial Hall has been voted on despite community concerns.
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Ms Roma Dix spoke in public forum at the February 24, 2021 Ordinary Meeting of Council.
As a member of the Southern Highlands Symphony Orchestra and Southern Highlands Concert Band, and as someone who worked at the Mittagong Playhouse for more than 20 years, Ms Dix had several concerns over the redevelopment of Bowral Memorial Hall.
Ms Dix said the Bowral Memorial Hall was not suitable for plays and theatre groups as the building is long and narrow.
"Only one theatre group ever came across to the empty Bowral Memorial Hall and they said they would never do that again," she said.
"It isn't suited to the theatre. It is fabulous for music but it doesn't suit the theatre.
"The refurbishment won't need retractable seating if there's nothing to look at on stage."
Ms Dix said there was one thing the SHCB and SHSO wanted to ask for.
"We are concerned for the community and that the hall is available to everybody but there is one thing that we would like," she said.
"It's a bit strange to have a hall for music but the musicians can't use the stage because the ceiling is fair high and so any sound we make goes up and is absorbed by the curtains.
"What we would ask is a sound shell. What that means is a removable, temporary low ceiling which goes from the front of the stage to halfway back and then drops at the floor."
Ms Dix said a sound shell would allow for band and orchestra members on stage, with some on the front of the stage and the rest in front of the stage, where the band and orchestra normally play.
Ms Dix also said there wasn't much community consultation.
"I went to the hall when council was showing plans and I looked eagerly at plans. A lovely lady was beside me and I asked her a lot of questions. When I was finished she said thank you, that's very interesting and turned to the next customer," she said.
"That's not consultation. We can't have consultation until we've seen the plans and studied them and we've got questions and suggestions.
"If we had a consultation, which we'd love, we'd love to talk to the architect and talk to all of you face to face."
An introduction by the council's senior assets coordinator for parks and buildings Rachel Forte was heard.
Ms Forte said the council had resolved that the primary purpose of Bowral Memorial Hall would be a concert hall for unamplified music on October 28, 2013.
"The Bowral Memorial Hall refurbishment project has specifically been listed in council's delivery project for 2017-2021," she said.
"During this period council has engaged with a principal design consultant with particular experience and expertise in performing arts venue to develop a concept design.
"The brief was to meet the council's vision for a modern, comfortable and acoustically excellent, accessible and well-equipped concert hall.
"The redevelopment proposal obtained a development application approval in 2018 and a further modification of consent was approved in 2019.
"In the development of the design, the council undertook community consultation including key stakeholder input from the current hall users and public exhibition in an extended period."
Ms Forte said the design included flexible seating and stage configuration for a variety of uses.
She also confirmed that the acoustic shell requested by the SHSO and SHCB was part of the refurbished design.
"What the consultant has designed is an operable wall that meets the ceiling of the floor space area of the stage which will prevent the sound from being dissipated above the stage.
"The acoustic shell will allow for groups to set up further in the stage area and form a shell shape, in theory, will mean the music won't be absorbed."
Councillor Garry Turland put a motion up to defer the decision until after public consultation.
It was seconded by Councillor Ian Scandrett.
An amendment was put forth by Councillor Graham Andrews and seconded by Mayor Duncan Gair to accept the tender.
Councillor Garry Turland said that there was confusion over what is in the plan and what is not.
"It has been going on for a long time now and it's great that we have the money," he said.
"We're not trying to slow the project down, we are just trying to stall it so the stakeholders and the community members have a chance to have a look and revisit what has been done.
"It's only two weeks to defer it so the stakeholders so can have a chance to talk to the architect, consultant, and council staff on what's in the development approval for the Bowral Memorial Hall.
"The stakeholders need to have a chance to voice their concerns."
Councillor Andrews said residents had 18 months to voice their concerns.
"The emails voicing concern only seem to have come in the last four weeks," he said.
"We've waited three years to get to where we are. We should pursue it and go forward with it. There's no need to go to close, let's just hear it and deal with it tonight."
Councillor Larry Whipper said nobody wanted to see this go forward more than himself.
"I moved the motion that we move forward to create a venue for amplified sound, so I don't want to see this held up," he said.
"But I think we need to listen seriously to those concerns. There's been a consistent message that they've got concerns.
"An extra two weeks isn't going to make much difference. If we've got the assurance that the sound shell will do its job, and if there are options to reduce the retractable seating, we can go ahead.
"Let's have a meeting with representatives and bring it back in two weeks."
Councillor Peter Nelson said changes made to the design would lead to changes in the tender.
"It will throw it into disarray and put the $2.8 million at jeopardy," he said.
"We either move on with this tonight and adopt this and get it going or two weeks will cascade out of control."
Cr Scandrett said the SHSO and SHCB have regularly voiced their concerns.
"There's no doubt they're concerned about the quality and delivery of music," he said.
"The retractable seating was a concern and opposed from day one.
"They are passionate, they do know what they are talking about."
Mayor Duncan Gair said he agreed with Cr Whipper that the refurbishment of Bowral Memorial Hall was a long time coming.
"I am going to support the recommendation moved by Cr Andrews as the amendment," he said.
"Cr Nelson is right, if we delay this and changes to the tender are made, then the tender becomes invalid and we will have to go through the process again.
"I hear the concerns of the user group... and respect the musicians and everyone involved but sometimes we've got to make a decision."
Cr Turland said the council could vary the tender price up or down.
"It's called a variation. We can remove things and we can add things in, it's a standard part of a contract," he said.
"Give the stakeholders a chance to get together with all parties to talk through what their concerns are. Nothing might change but you have to give them a chance."
Councillors voted on the amendment put by Cr Andrews and Gair.
Councillors Andrews, McLaughlin, Gair and Nelson voted for the amendment.
Councillors Halstead, Scandrett, Whipper and Turland voted against the amendment to accept the tender.
The mayor used his casting vote to break the tie and voted to accept the tender.
The amendment became the motion and councillors voted the same way.
Mayor Gair used his casting vote for the motion.
The recommendation the council adopted was that the council accepts the tender by Belmadar pty ltd at a lump sum amount of $5.8 million to undertake the refurbishment of Bowral Memorial Hall.
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