A COST blow-out in the warders’ cottages repair bill threatens to sink council plans to redevelop the historic site for public use.
The Herald understands at an internal council briefing recently it was revealed the bill is now $7.5 million, well up from the $6 million quoted by mayor Brad Pettitt and in the National Trust’s diligence report.
The mayor says a final report is expected to come before council in January, “so I can’t answer these in any detail except to say if the city of Fremantle was to take these on, it can’t be at a cost to Fremantle ratepayers”.
At this stage the council still plans to ask the WA government for a $4.5 million injection and long lease for the historic site.
Premier Colin Barnett said during a recent visit the cottages would have to be sold on the private market unless someone came up with a better plan.
Heritage watchdog John Dowson says council staff he’d spoken to had always held reservations about the $6m figure.
“It is not viable to do them up for that much,” he says, critical of Dr Pettitt’s early figures. “The numbers don’t stack up.”
Mr Dowson wrote to the premier this week, suggesting a solution proposed by the National Trust: “Use training money from Joe Francis’ corrective services budget to get the repairs done.”
He says the council should not be in charge of restoring the cottages. He wants their ownership reverted to the prison and used for short-term accommodation.
“By saying they had the money when they didn’t, Fremantle council has delayed a solution to the issue of the cottages by six months,” he says.
“But then, you are also under pressure from developers to carve off the gardens at the rear of the cottages.”
by CARMELO AMALFI