Street spending under scrutiny

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Revamp review: Council auditors will analyse spending on the Wells St redesign. Pic: Gary Sissons

Revamp review: Council auditors will analyse spending on the Wells St redesign. Picture: Gary Sissons

AN AUDIT of upgrade works to Wells St will be conducted after the cost of a ‘new look’ for the central Frankston street rose from $3.5 million to $4.9 million.

Councillors last month decided to instruct internal council auditors to comb over spending on new street lights, street furniture, wider footpaths and new gardens.

Council CEO Dennis Hovenden confirmed at a public council meeting there had been “project scope changes” increasing the cost of the Wells St revamp but he stressed all changes had been signed off by council.

The project was originally slated to be complete in October last year but construction works have taken longer than anticipated.

“Because of some delays in completing the project there are some additional funds that are going to have to be sourced and ultimately, at this point in time, we’re probably looking at about $4.9 million,” Mr Hovenden said.

Councillors argued at the previous public meeting adjourned by the mayor Cr James Dooley about solely auditing the Wells St project but Cr Glenn Aitken suggested the construction of the new Frankston war memorial at Beauty Park, Frankston Yacht Club, Frankston Football Function Centre and a clubhouse extension for the Frankston Bombers at Baxter Reserve should also be audited to provide “a fair comparison”.

When asked by The Times Mr Hovenden confirmed “the total investment in one-of-a-kind street furniture” for Wells St came to $359,470.

The cost included 11 city bench seats ($13,830 each), four circular seats ($12,820 each) and 18 planters ($8670 each).

“Detailed designs were discussed with and supported by councillors at councillor briefings throughout 2015,” he said.

Councillor briefings by council officers take place behind closed doors between monthly public council meetings.

The state government is contributing $1.79 million towards the Wells St revamp with Frankston ratepayers picking up the tab for $3.11 million difference in cost at latest count.

Mr Hovenden said money would be taken from council’s capital works budget to pay for the street works.

“We need to exercise a bit of caution when we’re referring to ‘cost blowouts’ against changes in the project which have been reported to the council all through these projects,” he said at last month’s public council meeting.

He did say “a wise council” would look at “learning opportunities” provided by any audit of major projects.

Cr Glenn Aitken has denied unilaterally directing contractors on the Wells St project to make changes without consultation with council.

Crs Aitken, Brian Cunial, Dooley, Colin Hampton and Sandra Mayer voted to ask internal auditors to analyse five projects, including the Wells St revamp, and report back to council.

Crs Taylor, Michael O’Reilly, Rebekah Spelman and Suzette Tayler wanted auditors to solely look at the Wells St project.

Mr Hovenden told councillors it is highly unlikely that the internal audits will be finished before October’s council election.

First published in the Frankston Times – 13 June 2016

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