Suspended Wingecarribee Shire mayor Duncan Gair has defended the alleged civic centre budget blowout.
Mr Gair has hit back at comments made by interim administrator Viv May at an Ordinary Meeting of Council on August 11.
In the interim administrator minute, Mr May said the council had accepted a contract of $6.8 million and that the allocated funds had increased to $10.8 million.
"The project is still not completed and while it appears in some areas to have achieved its objective I can only say that the newly constructed meeting rooms and areas for the mayor and general manager are extravagant," he said.
"The council chamber where we meet today appears to have a 'them and us' design.
"The library reconfiguration delivers an outcome that does not meet State Library population/ size benchmarks which limits the councils ability to attract capital funding from the State Library of NSW.
"While I have asked the general manager for a detailed report in relation to this project it is not possible to interview former or suspended councillors or former staff and reference to a Public Inquiry may be the only way to the truth."
At the Extraordinary Meeting of Council on August 30, Mr May announced that general manager Lisa Miscamble had engaged Mr Norm Smith.
"Mr Smith is an independent auditor with extensive experience in such matters, to review the project including the project plan, scope, budget (including variations) and the procurement and approval processes associated with the entire project," he said.
"Once completed a report will be provided to the council setting out the findings arising out of the review and recommendations to be used by the council to improve the management of projects."
However, Mr Gair questioned the interpretion of the budget and costing of the refurbishment of the civic centre.
"At the meeting August 11, 2021, Mr May said the cost of the upgrade had increased by nearly 60 per cent from $6.8 million to $10.8 million," he said.
"On August 30, 2021, he announced that consultant Mr Norm Smith, at ratepayers' cost, will audit the books."
Mr Gair said the most recent advice he received was that the project was likely to be finalised $100,000 under the approved budget.
"It is a very good outcome given the complexities of the project," he said,
Mr Gair said the council had allocated $9.26 million in its 2020/21 budget for the civic centre renovations.
"The contract price for the substantive works of the roof replacement, air conditioning upgrades and electrical and other works came in at $6.8 million which was at the lower end of expectations and the quantity surveyor's estimate," he said.
"Due to the complexity of the refurbishment works there were many significant items that were included in the $9.2 million budget which were competitively quoted as variations such as a new customer service centre, council chambers fit-out and IT communications upgrades.
"Thanks to the competitive tender price and close management of project costs, additional works such as significant improvements to the Moss Vale Library were subsequently able to be included in the project scope.
"The council subsequently decided to add $850,000 to the budget to fit out the new second floor areas created in the new roof structure.
"This was done to provide much-needed additional meeting rooms and storage space, and to also integrate the councillors' functional areas, committee room and mayoral office, as it would save money in the long term."
Mr Gair said it would've been "far more expensive" to pull the building part again in just a few years.
"It was much more efficient to do it now rather than later, particularly with interest rates so low," he said.
"There has been no cost blow-out of 60 per cent and the project has delivered a much-needed refurbishment that now makes a 50-year-old building with a leaky roof watertight, provides energy-efficient, modern air conditioning, provides proper access to the council chambers for people with mobility issues and refreshes the run-down public areas of the civic centre.
"All of these works have been delivered within the approved budget."
Mr Gair said, to his knowledge, the new offices for the mayor and general manager were of similar size to the old offices.
"They are not extravagant but obviously better designed and integrated to the refurbished layout of a facility built in the late 1960s for a much smaller population," he said.
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