Council defers vote on sale of Council building to fund $81m Cultural and Civic Space project

A decision on the sale of Council’s administration building and chambers to fund the Cultural and Civic Space project will occur at the next Council meeting. Photo: Emma Darbin.

 

A DECISION on the sale of Coffs Harbour City Council’s Chambers and Castle Street building for $7.25m to help fund the $81m Cultural and Civic Space project has been deferred due to a last minute offer made on the site.

The decision caused heated debate between Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight and Cr John Arkan at the Council meeting on Thursday 8 July, with Cr Arkan wanting to move a motion on the sale and Mayor Knight calling for discussion on the matter to be deferred.

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Council’s General Manager Steve McGrath confirmed that Council had received an “eleventh hour offer” for the Council building at 11am on the day of the Council meeting.

“The opportunity is there for Council to consider that,” Mr McGrath stated.

Cr Paul Amos, however, argued that councillors required three days’ notice of any changes made to the Council meeting papers.

Cr Sally Townley also objected to the new information “being included only hours or minutes before the meeting”.

“I would propose that we defer this item to the next meeting,” Cr Townley said.

Mayor Knight said she understood “everyone’s frustrations” on the issue.

Cr John Arkan, however, continually asked the Mayor to allow him to put forward his motion on the Council building sale.

“Let the motion be heard that I have,” Cr Arkan urged.

Cr Arkan’s continual insistence to have his motion heard led to a shouting match between Mayor Knight and himself, with the Mayor repeatedly calling for Cr Arkan to “sit down”.

“Will you let me speak, sit down,” Mayor Knight ordered Cr Arkan.

“Mayor, will you let me speak,” Cr Arkan replied.

“No Cr Arkan, sit down,” Mayor Knight said.

“I hate it when it goes like this,” Cr Arkan said.

“Well, you started it,” Mayor Knight replied.

“There’s no need to do that,” Cr Arkan said.

“Well, I asked you to sit down, I expect you to sit down,” Mayor Knight said.

“Madam Mayor, point of order,” Cr Arkan stated.

Cr Arkan eventually offered up to Council his alternate motion to defer the sale of the Council building and obtain a current valuation of the property for Council to consider, and to provide costings for the conduct of an auction to sell the property in the future.

Mayor Knight ruled the motion out of order.

“Well that’s interesting, thankyou,” Cr Arkan said.

Mayor Knight instead moved a motion to defer discussion on the sale of the Council building and the new offer for the building to the next Council meeting.

“I feel that deferring those two items so we can discuss them at a later date when we have all the information that is included in the addendum (further offer) is much more satisfactory,” Mayor Knight said.

Cr Keith Rhoades called for the debate on the sale to be deferred to the next Ordinary meeting of Council on Thursday 22 July and not to an earlier Extraordinary meeting.

“This is a very very important issue and the community needs to be given the opportunity to be a part of that,” Cr Rhoades stressed.

“The community has a right to debate the issues that are not contained within a confidential report.”

Mayor Knight confirmed to councillors “we’re getting very close to caretaker with this one”.

Council will enter the caretaker period from Friday 6 August until the Local Government Election on Saturday 4 September, and during this period Council is unable to make decisions on the sale of land or enter a contract or undertaking involving the expenditure of or receipt by Council of an amount equal to or greater than $150,000.

Councillors voted unanimously to defer discussion on the sale of the Council building and the new offer for the building to the next Ordinary Council meeting on Thursday 22 July as adequate time was not available to review the late offer.

If the sale is approved, Council will continue to occupy the property and will enter into a three-year lease with an annual rent of $850,000 per year.

Council has held the property since the mid-1980s when it was developed by Council and has since operated it as Council’s central administration building and chambers.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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