MANY of the “essential” conservation works needed at the Fremantle Markets which have prompted Fremantle council to offer the managing lessee a long lease extension, were identified 12 years ago but never acted on.
Last week the council voted for CEO Philip St John to negotiate the terms of a “possible lease extension” with the Murdoch family’s company Fremantle Markets Pty Ltd which could see them get an extra 10 to 15 years.
As part of the deal, the Murdochs would help the council pay for half of its share of the works – around $500,000 – while putting in $1.2 million for works the council believes they should be responsible for.
The Murdochs have argued they couldn’t recoup enough on that investment by the time their current lease runs out in 2026 to make it worthwhile.
A report to the council said there were $1.6m of “priority” works, including demolition and replacement of most of the roof sections, new electric cabling and firefighting solutions.
But looking into the Fremantle Markets Conservation Plan adopted by the council in 2008, the Chook spotted a swag of “urgent” works that have cropped up in the new list.
Some of the repeat jobs include fixing “leaks to the ceiling of Shop 15”, “deteriorated stonework to east wall of 1898 building” which has now expanded to “all external limestone walls except South Terrace and Henderson Street facades” and repairing the flooring.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson, who was deputy mayor when the conservation plan was adopted, said part of the problem was that the council of the time didn’t stipulate who should pay for which repairs.
He’d argued at the time, and submitted a letter to the Herald, calling for a more stringent arrangement and a plan to sequester a portion of the extra annual rent the council had just negotiated for conservation.
“Here we are in 2020 revisiting the poor decision that has cost the ratepayers millions of dollars in lost rent and left the markets nowhere near the well-maintained and well-restored shape it should be in,” Mr Dowson said.
The council report says the markets needs $5.65 all up, but notes “the city ins not currently in a position to provide funding to these works in the near future”.
By JUSTIN STAHL