FREMANTLE council has applied for $10 million in Federal funding to help build its new civic headquarters in Kings Square.
The city submitted an application during round three of the National Stronger Regions Fund, open between January 15 and March 15 this year, but the news only came to light at this week’s council meeting.
Critics of the $50m admin building jumped on the brief reference in this week’s agenda as proof the council’s financial case isn’t as rosy as it’s been making out.
“If council can get federal funding, it should,” says commercial adviser Martin Lee.
“But why are they asking for it now, at five minutes to midnight? Perhaps someone on council has finally twigged.”
He believes the council is selling off too much of its asset and income-generating base to pay for the project, leaving ratepayers exposed.
The council’s own long-term financial plan shows the income it receives from rates jumping 35 per cent over the first five years of the Kings Square project, from $38.1m, to $51.8m. Over 10 years that rises to $66m, a 74 per cent increase over today’s take.
“The thought of a cost blowout is too scary to consider,” says Mr Lee, pointing to Port Macquarie council which was dismissed by the NSW government after the costs of one of its projects ballooned.
The council refused to say if the application was made to plug any shortfall.
“The city believes the upgrades to Kings Square fit the criteria of what NSRF funding was designed for and therefore felt it prudent to submit an application,” says council media spokesperson, Jason Cunningham.
“We are unsure of when successful applicants will be announced but are aware the process is extremely competitive with hundreds of applications from all over Australia.”
by STEVE GRANT and STEPHEN POLLOCK