Cr Kirstie Schumacher said while this is a
Cr Kirstie Schumacher said while this is a "once in a lifetime project" for the South Burnett region, unintended financial strain could "haunt this council for a lifetime."Â Photo/Holly Cormack.

Kingaroy Transformation Project gets multi-million budget boost

THE South Burnett Regional Council has upped the ante of the “once in a lifetime” Kingaroy Transformation Project, bumping up the budget from the $11.1 million to $13.9 million.

Addressing a proposed $2.5 million boost at today’s ordinary council meeting, a motion put forth by deputy mayor councillor Gavin Jones saw an additional $300,000 added to the proposed increase, which passed four to three.

The amended resolution reads:

1. Adopt the design in principal for construction as presented in attachment two.

2. Approve budget with $13.9 budget, including contingency with the additional budget to come from funded depreciation and restricted cash over the period of the project, including $2 million from transport infrastructure, $300 000 from water and wastewater, and $500 000 from property sales, and any project savings to be returned to restricted cash for transport infrastructure or water and wastewater respectively for reallocation by Council.

3. Delegate the CEO to negotiate contributions to the project from the Department of Transport and Main Roads as per the TMR/Local Government cost sharing agreement with regular progress reports back to council.

4. Delegate the CEO to negotiate contributions from Ergon Energy for the undergrounding of power services with regular progress reports back to council.

5. Council proceed with the groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Monday Dec 14, 2020.

6. That Kingaroy and Glendon Streets, between Alford Street and Markwell Street, be considered for design when council considers it’s 21/22 financial budget.

The amendment which saw the proposed budget for the Kingaroy Transformation Project rise from $13.6 to $13.9 million was backed by Cr Gavin Jones, Cr Roz Frohloff, Cr Danita Potter, Cr Scott Henschen.

The motion, however, was strongly opposed by Mayor Brett Otto, Cr Kirstie Schumacher and Cr Kathy Duff, who are of the opinion the budget boost could mean financial strain for the council.

“It’s my view this project comes with a high degree of risk and uncertainty,” Cr Schumacher said, suggesting while Kingaroy is in dire need of investment, the project should be delayed until council reconvenes on December 14 to ensure the ratepayers hard-earned dollars are being spent responsibly.

“This project comes at a high degree of risk and uncertainty and I believe council needs more information to make this decision.”

“I unashamedly have high expectations. This project has been decades in the making. It’s hugely important to me and the people of division four.”

“While it is a once in a lifetime project for this region, I fear it could haunt this council for a lifetime.”

Mayor Brett Otto, along with Cr Kirstie Schumacher and Cr Kathy Duff, strongly opposed the budget boost. Photo/Holly Cormack.
Mayor Brett Otto, along with Cr Kirstie Schumacher and Cr Kathy Duff, strongly opposed the budget boost. Photo/Holly Cormack.

Cr Henschen said if we continue to procrastinate on this project, we will see it rise from “$13 million to $15 million to 17 million”.

“The longer we leave it, the worse it gets.”

In support of increasing the budget for the project, Cr Potter said Kingaroy is in dire need of investment.

“We need a project to invigorate our economy. Something that will instil confidence in our local businesses and the wider community,” she said.

“The Kingaroy Transformation Project not only creates an identity, but also recognises everyone in the South Burnett.”

Drawing on his experience as an accountant, Mayor Otto said while the project is long overdue and desperately needed, councillors have “a duty to ratepayers to make sure we are doing due diligence”.

Noting the potential rise in unexpected costs as the floors are ripped up, Mayor Otto said these costs could either lead to financial distress for the council or significant rate rises, “leaning on people already in financial distress”.

With these potential outcomes considered, as well as the fact that “things need to be done in other towns”, he said he cannot support this resolution.

“I see the Kingaroy Transformation project as a catalyst for growth. This project comes with high risk, but it’s concerning we know we’re over budget before even moving a pot plant,” Cr Schumacher said.

“These rates are our residents‘ hard earned dollars.”

South Burnett

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