Tourism hub budget blow

Talitha WolfeAlbany Advertiser

Unforeseen circumstances in the construction of Albany’s new tourism centre has City of Albany councillors questioning the project’s management as it sits at more than$350,000 over budget.

The Tourism and Information Hub was set to be the crown jewel in the York Street revitalisation plan, with Albany Visitor Centre relocated to Albany Public Library.

The total project was costed at$2.6 million but several variations during construction in 2017/18 have put the project at least 13 per cent over the total project budget.

At the Community and Corporate Services meeting committee on Tuesday, City staff admitted the project, which began in March last year, had negligible contingency, which meant if variations in construction were encountered then the project would not be able to draw on reserve funds to cover the costs.

The budget review tabled at the committee outlined a further $350,000 was required this financial year.

Several variations arose during construction of the building, including site contaminations and the discovery of old sewer and water mains. An old building was also discovered under the former library with significant foundations. City staff told councillors this set construction back 21 days and about $45,000.

The budget review for this financial year also proposed a further $50 000 to relocate the existing visitor centre services to the new building, $219,000 for touchscreen kiosks and virtual reality videos, and a further $350,000 to fit out the library. Several councillors, including deputy Mayor Greg Stocks, questioned why councillors were not made aware of changes earlier. “Questions about when you knew, and why we were not told earlier are very valid,” he said.

Chief executive Andrew Sharpe told the Albany Advertiser, although the project was over budget it remained on schedule for completion within the time frame required to meet funding obligations. “Despite detailed planning and costing, it is not unusual for large infrastructure projects to run over budget due to unforeseen circumstances or costs,” he said.

“It is common practice with construction projects to allow some contingency in the budget to cover variations; however, in this case the variations are greater than anticipated. The variations have been required to cover additional costs relating to things such as site works, meeting fire standards, additional security and CCTV, and fit-out costs.” The hub is set to open in coming months.

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