Square rejig adopted

FREMANTLE council this week adopted rejigged plans for its new Kings Square admin building, but is facing calls to update its nearly five-year-old business plan for the project.

The council has confirmed that the top floor will now be leased out to provide the council with a revenue stream, although that’s because council staff will now squeeze into the bottom two floors rather than adding a new floor as mayor Brad Pettitt recently told the Herald (“Council on the up?” Herald, February 25, 2017).

The design also includes a change room for people with disabilities and more meeting rooms that will be available to the public.

Dr Pettitt, who announced at the meeting that he and partner Emma area expecting their first child, said the council wanted a building that would be useful in 100 years.

In a statement designed to counter calls from the Fremantle Society and former mayor Peter Tagliaferri that the council should simply refurbish its existing building, Dr Pettitt said it needed replacing.

“The design of the new building, which won Fremantle’s first international architectural competition, works more in harmony with the Fremantle Town Hall than the current building, with better connections which will breathe new life into the town hall and adds to its heritage values.

“It’s been more than 14 years since Fremantle council first flagged the need to replace the civic building.”

Dr Pettitt said architects Kerry Hill would now finalise the designs and tally up the cost.

The Fremantle Society and commercial adviser Martin Lee this week called on the council to produce a new business plan.

Mr Lee, who argues the council is reducing its asset base to dangerously low levels in order to fund the square project, says assumptions used in the business plan have changed so much since 2012 that it needs to be revisited.

“This design concept and associated costs have changed and the 2012 business plan is no longer valid – it was only a scoping level evaluation at best, and a final investment decision should always have required a revised Kings Square business plan to be put to council,” he wrote to the council’s finance director Glen Dougall on Wednesday.

“The statement of financial impact was based on the city’s finances back in 2012. According to the auditors to the 2016 financial statements, this situation has deteriorated significantly, so the impact need updating and to be related to the current situation..”

by STEVE GRANT

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