Council looking up?

FREMANTLE council is considering a third storey of rentable office space for its admin building as part of the $250 million redevelopment of Kings Square.

Mayor Brad Pettitt revealed this week that councillors were considering the merits of adding the extra floor following discussions with the architects about keeping costs manageable.

But Dr Pettitt dismisses suggestions that have bubbled on blogs, social media and the Herald’s letters pages that the council’s heading towards economic armageddon as a result of the Kings Square deal with Sirona Capital.

“The analogy that I use is that when you build a new house, the first few years after that is tight,” Dr Pettitt said.

“There will have to be some tough budgets, but one thing we want to make sure of is not to put up rates unnecessarily.”

Dr Pettitt acknowledged there’d been a staffing squeeze which is expected to contribute to a $700,000 under-spend by the end of the financial year — a similar result to last year.

“That was one of the challenges we put up when we appointed the new CEO (Philip St John), which was that ‘we want you to come up with a fresh approach and to do things more efficiently’,” says Dr Pettitt.

“The challenge is that as councillors we’re not that close to operational matters, so you have to trust the administration to make changes that don’t impact on services to the public.”

This month’s financial report also reveals the council’s revenue has suffered badly this year, leading to a $900,000 blowout to the projected operating deficit. It’s also shy of its capital works targets by $3.48m, which follows last year’s underspend of almost $6m.

Parking revenue has dropped by $743,582 due to selling Queensgate and other factors, while parking infringements were down $300,000.

The council also voted on Wednesday night to put out the design of a children’s playground on Kings Square to a competition.

The resulting playground, between St John’s Church and the council building, would be based on nature play principles in an urban setting.

But the move hasn’t impressed the Fremantle Society, which has been pushing for the council to open up the square.

by STEVE GRANT

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