Square cost revealed

THE bill for Fremantle council’s King’s Square revitalisation has hit $53.5 million and could reach $57 million when it’s fully completed.

The costings were released by new CEO Glen Dougall this week in response to questions from councillor Marija Vujcic, who claimed at last month’s council meeting ratepayers were being misled over what was being spent.

Cr Vujcic told the Herald she’d been “vindicated” because the price tag was closer to her estimate of $61m-$67m.

But Mr Dougall said the figures the council had published recently were only for the construction of the Walyalup Civic Centre and he’s standing by its $46.7m cost.

“That’s just on the Pindan contract, which was the biggest component of the project,” Mr Dougall said.

At Wednesday’s council meeting Cr Vujcic criticised how long it took for the CEO to answer her questions, suggesting he’d deliberately delayed releasing them until just hours before the meeting.

“I can understand the CEO is very busy with budgets as we all know, but it was interesting that yesterday the response was ‘we are too busy to get to your questions’,” Cr Vujcic said.

“This afternoon about 4.20pm I received a response to these questions.”

Cr Vujcic later told the Herald she suspects this was because she’d emailed the council’s finance manager to say she’d be speaking on the issue again.

“I find that quite extraordinary,” she told the chamber. “One could come to the conclusion that you had the information all along.”

The $53.5m is still almost $10m more than the revitalisation was projected to cost in the 2012 business plan.

That was also based on the council having just a $6.6m shortfall after selling three investment properties, however the council applied for a $20m loan from Treasury for the project.

That has Cr Vujcic worried, saying the Walyalup centre didn’t have tenants, so ratepayers were having to foot the interest bills they were supposed to be contributing to, while the council hadn’t replaced the money-making assets it had sold.

Cr Vujcic did get an acknowledgement from the CEO that the city had been tardy in updating its monthly figures on capital works on progress.

While the draft audited figures for the last financial year show the figure was $52.2m, it was still showing up in councillor’s monthly reports as $38.1 as of April this year.

“So unless there is evidence that the auditors have made a mistake, I see no particular reason why we should not make that correction,” she said.

Mr Dougall acknowledged at the meeting they needed updating, later telling the Herald the discrepancy had come about because of projects that had been carried forward but weren’t signed off.

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