ALTERNATIVE funding options for the controversial $76.5m Cultural and Civic Space Project recently announced by Coffs Harbour City Council have sparked outrage among the community, with a special rate variation and airport lease funds being listed as potential options.
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A Cultural and Civic Space-Funding Options and Financial Implications of Change Of Space report was presented to Coffs Harbour City councillors at Council’s latest meeting on Thursday, 13 August, following Council’s inability to sell Rigby House and its Castle Street Administration Building this year.
Council estimated the sale of these two properties would contribute $17m towards funding of the Cultural and Civic Space Project.
Alternative funding options for the project listed in the report included, additional external borrowing, a special rate variation, renting Rigby House and Council’s Administration Building, grant funding, philanthropic donations, internal borrowing, joint venture/public private partnership, developer contributions ($2,400 per lot), and an airport lease allocation.
The report stated it would be possible for Council to apply for a special rate variation of approximately 4.01 percent over ten years to undertake the project, should Council decide not to sell both Rigby House and the Administration Building.
The report also stated it was possible Council would have funds from the Coffs Harbour Airport lease transaction which could be used as direct funds for the Cultural and Civic Space, or as internal borrowing towards funding the $17m loss Council would suffer should Rigby House and the Administration Building not be sold.
Council has previously indicated that proceeds from the airport lease transaction would not be used to fund the project.
“However, the use of these funds as an internal borrowing may be considered appropriate,” the report stated.
Council also has consistently indicated during community engagement and the financial planning for the project that a Special Rate Variation would not be utilised to fund the project.
Cr Paul Amos stated at the recent meeting the problem Council currently faced with trying to sell the two properties in a time of market uncertainty.
“It’s not a great time to sell the properties,” Cr Amos said.
Cr Keith Rhoades agreed and stated, “It’s the wrong time in the market to be selling property, we’ve all said that”.
Cr Amos called on the State and Federal Governments to help Council fund the project.
“Just about every big infrastructure build for local councils is subsidised by the State or Federal Governments,” Cr Amos stressed.
“It is too big a project for us to take on on our own.”
The recent report also stated that removing the Council staff offices from the Cultural and Civic Space building would cost approximately $38m in additional costs over twenty years to retain the Administration Building and Rigby House, and to refurbish the Administration Building to accommodate all administration staff.
Following around 90 minutes of debate, Council resolved to pause the sale of its Castle Street Administration Building and Rigby House until the Cultural and Civic Space development application is determined and if approved, and detailed design and costing is complete.
Once this occurs, Council will authorise its General Manager to engage in negotiations with prospective buyers via the commercial real estate agent engaged by Council, with a view to achieving a reasonable offer for both properties.
A report will be brought back to Council in regard to property sale negotiations.
Council also resolved to receive a report on projected costings on the project’s total interest, legal fees, demolition of existing buildings at the project’s Gordon Street site, and the percentage of the proposed storage building to be used for art gallery and museum offsite storage.
By Emma DARBIN