The Ballarat Independent.

Civic Hall Q&A with Mayor Craig Fletcher

Author: Jon Stanger Categories: Issues, Stories, Politics, Economy, You are in:Home > Stories > Issues

Civic Hall Q&A with Mayor Craig Fletcher
Mayor Craig Fletcher

TBI: Has Council hired extra communications staff to deal with the Civic Hall development? If so, how many EFT positions? Have Council contracted external communications or PR consultants to deal with the Civic Hall development? What have these consultancies amounted to in total cost?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: No

TBI: Given that "Overall, 'public open space' was the number one issue raised by the community during the consultation" in relation to the CBD strategy, why is the Council dramatically reducing the amount of public open space in the CBD?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council is not reducing the amount of open public space in the CBD. If you are referring to the 300 Mair Street site, the open space at that site is car parking and a skate ramp. Council has committed to work with the community on a location for alternate CBD skate / recreation facilities. If the 300 Mair Street project progresses, the community will have a public square, wide access through the site and use of the foyer area of the Council facility for exhibitions, functions etc. A key focus of the project is to create better connectivity between the City and the Library through the heart of the site.

TBI: Can demolition proceed before the land is handed over from the state government?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: The section of the site occupied by the Civic Hall is leased to the Council. If Council votes to move forward with the project and receives all the necessary approvals and permits for the proposed project, the demolition could proceed prior to the State Government agreeing to the transfer of the land for the council building and car park.

TBI: Why hasn't the Ballarat Heritage Advisory Committee (BHAC) been briefed and consulted as yet, despite requesting on 2 August 2010 that they be kept informed and be called to a special meeting?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Ballarat Heritage Advisory Committee will be consulted as part of Council's consideration of the planning application. A meeting has been scheduled to discuss the item.

TBI: What office space is available at the Old Shire Offices in Gillies St? Why could this not fulfil Council's requirements into the future? If efficiencies of co-location are the explanation, what are the projected cost savings of these efficiencies?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: The space is currently leased out to Telstra and DSE. The focus of the project is to provide co-located facilities for staff. Breaking staff further by moving elements would further impact negatively on staff productivity. Efficiency savings able to be achieved through co-location projects are the region of 1.5% annually.

TBI: What impact do you expect this development to have on the proposed Mair St and Camp St developments that have been approved?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Ballarat's population is increasing by an average of 2.5% per year and is set to reach almost 130,000 by 2026. The research prepared for Council shows that the Ballarat CBD alone, will require an additional 60,000m2 of commercial space for business services. The proposed 300 Mair Street project would deliver under half the required commercial space to meet growth and deliver jobs within the CBD.

TBI: What impact will Council making office space available for lease have on the cash-flow and property values of commercial landlords in Ballarat?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council expects that the net result of the total project is more office workers within the CBD, which will in turn have a positive impact on lease rate returns to landlords across the CBD.

TBI: If the corner of Dana St and Dovetone St is not to be a skate park, only to include 'skate elements', will an alternative to the skate park on the Civic Hall site be provided? Where and in what style? Why hasn't this been included in the costings of the project? What is the expected extra cost?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council will work with the community on an appropriate location for a skate or recreation area in the CBD. The costs for this piece of work will come out of CBD funding. Council has clearly identified in the Masterplan for the site, which was adopted in 2010 that skating would no longer be accommodated on the site.

TBI: Why hasn't the renovation of the A Hall and ground floor of Town Hall been included in the project costings if it is part of the guarantee to residents?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council will work with the community to understand what they would like to see the ground floor used for and costings will be developed at that stage.

TBI: Civic Hall was used in part as a youth space. Council is still seeking a new youth space in the CBD. Why hasn't this been included in the costings if Civic Hall could have played that role with refurbishments?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council's masterplan that was adopted in November 2010 clearly set out the direction for the site.

TBI: Civic Hall would seem to be a suitable location for the Visitors Information Centre. Is Council satisfied with the current location of the Visitors Information Centre, especially with regard to tourist bus parking and car parking? Should the possible location of the Visitors Information Centre have been included in the scoping for the Civic Hall project?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Council is currently assessing a range of option for the location of a new VIC.

TBI: Cr Mark Harris acknowledged that additional performance space was needed in Ballarat, of a similar size and functionality to what Civic Hall had. He suggested that would be achieved in the proposed Eureka Stadium developments. Why hasn't this been included in the project costings or considerations?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: The Major Events Precinct project is still being developed and costed and it is a separate project.

TBI: Would the project still be seen as economically viable if the costs of Town Hall and A Hall renovations, youth space, skate park, visitors information centre and performance space were included in the projections? What do these costs add up to?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: These other projects all form part of Council's regular business and do not directly relate to work on this site. Council has a financial model that enables a business as usual approach to the provision of regular infrastructure, services and projects.

TBI: What is the maximum contribution Council would be willing to make to the Eureka Stadium and entertainment complex development? How will this contribution affect rates?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: The Major Events Precinct project is still being developed and costed and it is a separate project.

TBI: Considering Council staff has historically grown at 1.15% per year, how do they explain the projected 1.5% growth they use as justification for needing new office spaces?

Mayor Craig Fletcher: Growth in staff numbers of around 1.5% has been factored into the design of the building to ensure that it is large enough to accommodate appropriate growth in staff numbers to service a population of almost 130,000 in 2026.

Council is currently spread across three CBD locations and the consolidation of staff into one building and elimination of leasing costs would deliver savings to the ratepayers over time.

What do you think? Add your thoughts to the comments below, including any additional questions you would like to ask and we will put them to City of Ballarat Mayor Craig Fletcher.