Park work a 'monumental disaster'
A $66,000 costs bungle has caused work to grind to a halt on the refurbishing of a small park in the heart of Bangalow.
Locals fear that the pile of soil and builders’ rubbish left at the site for the past month will turn into a repeat of the Lighthouse Road debacle – where a broken walkway has gone unfixed for more than five years.
They believe that a Byron Shire Council decision to ‘do nothing’ will leave the town with a dangerous eyesore for years to come.
Heritage – or Fire Station – Park sits in the middle of the village’spicturesque main street.
Until recently residents used it to walk between the streets, and shop workers sat in it to eat their lunches.
Now the park is a desolate work- site, sitting behind safety fencing, and completely unusable.
Work to modernise and make the park safer was halted about a month ago when it was found that the $122,600 budget was less than two-thirds of the money needed to complete the job.
At a council meeting in June staff recommended that another $50,000 from relevant section 94 funds beallocated to finish the job, saying that additional work had been required for the demolition, site survey, reconstruction of the block wall, electrical works and concrete steps.
Councillors unanimously rejected the recommendation, saying the project must stay within the original $112,600 budget ‘with safety and amenity as priorities’.
Cr Richard Staples said this week that ‘too much money had already been wasted’ on the project.
Michael Malloy, head of Bangalow’s Chamber of Commerce, said there were two infuriating aspects to the bungled project.
“The first is that whoever did the original calculations got it so horrendously wrong. There has been gross incompetence on the part of those who estimated the costs, let thetenders and supervised the works.
“The second is that council don’t give a damn,” Mr Malloy said.
A relatively straightforward refurbishment job had turned into a ‘monumental disaster’, he said.
“Bangalow is left with a half-finished pile of rubble in the middle of the main CBD that is causing considerable inconvenience to locals and visitors alike, and distress to hard-working businesses trying to trade in the vicinity of this giant stuff-up,” Mr Malloy said.
Nicole Swain, who runs the postoffice next to the park, said she was ‘gobsmacked’ at the situation.
“It’s ridiculous and a joke,” she said.
She had also put up with months of dirt and noise on what was supposed to be a six-week project, she said.
But the architect for the park, Brian Kenny, director of ABK Architects, said that council had done the right thing to halt work while there were question marks over thebudget.
“There was no budget blow-out,” he said. “It wasn’t allowed tohappen.”
He said he had had to amend the design, which was disappointing, but “I think it’s going to turn out beautifully when it’s finished”.
Byron council’s executive manager of community infrastructure, Phil Holloway, said funding was still available to complete the project, but in order to come within budget, the custom-made seating had been changed to ‘off the shelf’, and there would be no stone wall and timber screen on one side of the park.
Labour-intensive demolition, stonework and concreting had revealed additional structural and engineering works were needed to ensure a safe community facility, he said.
Work was expected to restart next week, Mr Holloway said.