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Out of the blue: bid to spend extra $13m on Campbelltown Billabong

Maybe it was coincidence and maybe it wasn’t, but about the same time the Western Sydney City Deal Twitter account posted the picture above spruiking how iconic Campbelltown’s Billabong Parklands will turn out to be, councillors were being told  $13 million more than budgeted will be needed to make it a “sophisticated regional facility’’.

Some of the councillors say they cannot understand where the extra $13 million will be spent and intend to ask a lot of questions at next Tuesday night’s council meeting before deciding how to vote.

Work on the $18.75 million City Deal project started in June.

Now, out of the blue, councillors are being asked to vote for an extra $13 million, to come out of council’s reserves, which is money from the sale of assets such as land.

 Some of them are not happy and most likely will oppose the request for so much more money.

“No, I don’t think I can support it, it’s a lot of money and I am not sure how they want to spend it,’’ says independent councillor Bob Thompson, pictured.

Cr George Greiss, the leader of the Liberal Party faction on the council, says that while he hasn’t decided how he will vote on Tuesday night, he has concerns with what is being proposed.

“I have read the report and I am not convinced; there are lots of unanswered questions.

“I won’t commit until we get some answers on Tuesday night,’’ he said.

The Labor Party has the numbers to give the green light for the extra $13 million.

However sources close to the party say that not all Labor councillors are likely to support that approach when the caucus meets on Monday night.

Our source told us two and maybe three Labor councillors could vote against the $13 million proposal.

Totally Locally Committed councillor and local businessman Warren Morrison, pictured below, was another who said that while there were some arguments in spending more money on the Billabong he also needed more information before deciding which way he would vote.

“I am always looking for things that benefit Campbelltown, but I  am going to look into this a bit more before I make any decisions,’’ he told the South West Voice.

Greens councillor Ben Moroney said that on balance he would support spending the extra money if it meant making it a better facility, but he too had a few more questions regarding the proposal.

Veteran councillor Paul Lake said he would not be supporting spending the extra $13 million.

“I didn’t support the Billabong in the first place, because it was presented to the councillors as a fait accompli – we had no say in it – and I won’t be supporting spending so much more of the ratepayers’ money,’’ Cr Lake said.

“I am concerned that it will blow out to close to $40 million the way we are going.

“I am also concerned about the running costs once it is built – the rule of thumb is 10 percent of total construction cost, so we could be looking at $3 to $4 million a year,’’ Cr Lake said.

The report to council for next Tuesday’s meeting says the extra money is needed for a number of reasons.

One is to fix a potential sanitation problem in one of the three pools which could result in the closure of the entire swimming complex for a day or two.

“To achieve this under the health regulations, the water bodies each need a completely separate filtration and water storage system, as they cannot be connected. This effectively requires the construction of three separate pools. This feature cannot be retrospectively fitted to the pools and must be incorporated at the original time of construction,’’ says the report.

No costing is attached to the filtration works recommended.

Another reason given for the need for the extra $13 million is: “the chance to develop a commercial building on the site has provided an opportunity to review the concept design layout and develop a building footprint adjacent to the existing carpark on The Parkway. This commercial opportunity would provide a further complementary regional offering to the parkland and additionally, a potential investment offering to the site.’’

Again no costings are provided for the benefit of councillors regarding this item, even if they can work out what it means.

“It has become evident through the consultation process that the community desires a higher level of finish of materials in the Billabong Parklands that provide a safe, shaded and quality landscape,’’ says the report.

“Additional input from the Aboriginal consultation on the public artworks has delivered a higher level of finish and materials that respond to place and help to provide a facility that is not only a parkland which celebrates local identity and culture, but also provides the opportunity to become an educational facility.

“Another opportunity for consideration is the provision of future proofing of the site by providing servicing infrastructure such as power to meet the potential requirements of future site opportunities.

“These examples provide an insight into the opportunities that the development of the Campbelltown Billabong Parklands provides for the community. The Billabong has the opportunity to provide greater economic and social benefits to the community however additional funding would be required to achieve this,’’ says the report.

In contrast here’s what the Western Sydney City Deal tweet said of the current model and budget:

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