Deadline demand for basketball lease

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COUNCILLOR disquiet about how much money is invested in representative basketball compared to community and junior basketball has emerged as a potential deal breaker that could sink the long-awaited redevelopment of the Frankston Basketball Stadium.

Frankston councillors met on Wednesday 25 October for a special meeting behind closed doors to discuss giving the Frankston & District Basketball Association an ultimatum to hand over “a full breakdown” of the association’s expenditure.

The FDBA has provided council with audited financial accounts under the terms of its existing lease that expires in about nine years’ time.

The association originally paid to build the stadium on council-owned land.

Representative basketball teams are picked on the basis of players’ ability. The FBDA also fields two Frankston Blues teams — a men and women’s team — in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL).

Council’s special meeting was held in private for commercial-in-confidence reasons.

It is understood that a 5-4 majority of councillors, led by Cr Colin Hampton, voted that a full breakdown of the association’s expenditure must be provided before council will release $4 million of ratepayers’ money towards a $12.7 million stage one expansion of the stadium in Seaford.

The stage one upgrade will include more basketball courts bringing the total to ten, a new entry and reception area, new change rooms and an upgraded car park.

Frankston mayor Cr Brian Cunial issued a statement after the council special meeting confirming council has given the FDBA a deadline of Monday 14 November to sign a new lease required for the upgraded stadium.

The deadline is the latest in a series of deadlines imposed by council.

The mayor says council will walk away from the project — that includes $5.2 million of federal government and $2.5 million of state government funding — if the FDBA does not sign a lease by 14 November.

“There is a danger that the state or federal government, or both, may make a decision that would involve shelving the $12 million Frankston District Basketball Stadium expansion,” Cr Cunial said.

“More than two years of negotiations with the Frankston District Basketball Association have placed state and federal funding in breach of guidelines as milestones have passed.

“Furthermore, building costs have escalated due to the delay in signing a new lease.”

Devco Project & Construction Management, the builder hired to expand the stadium, now wants at least an extra $200,000 due to project delays.

Council and the FBDA are negotiating a 50-50 split on paying the $200,000 bill.

Cr Cunial said: “Council has written to the FDBA imploring them to agree to the draft lease presented to them on 16 October 2017 and provide increased details of their expenditure by 14 November 2017, or council will be forced to withdraw from the project at the following council meeting.”

The mayor said council “is committed to delivering improved community basketball facilities and is eager to commence works”.

FBDA president Gary Emery accused council of being “alarmist” in stating federal and state funding for the stadium upgrade is at risk.

“Statements the basketball stadium funding hangs in the balance is contrary to the advice the FDBA has received from government representatives,” Mr Emery said.

“It would appear by using this type of language, council have adopted an alarmist approach which is counterproductive and only acts as bulldozing what the FDBA felt was an amicable process since agreement was reached in late June.”

The FBDA says changes were made to a proposed lease agreement negotiated at a meeting mediated by former Liberal MP for Dunkley Bruce Billson in June.

“The FDBA believed it had a productive meeting with council officers last week [before the councillors’ meeting] and from this council would be formalising an agreement reflecting terms negotiated in late June by the former federal member for Dunkley Bruce Billson,” Mr Emery said.

“The FDBA has previously publicly stated it is comfortable with the ‘Billson’ terms which was again conveyed recently to council officers who did not indicate at the time this was unreasonable or that the goal posts had shifted.”

Mr Emery said: “Sport and Recreation Victoria representatives recently confirmed with council officers that audited financials, which the FDBA provide council as part of its current lease terms, is an appropriate level of financial disclosure in this instance.

“The FDBA believed that this issue was resolved upon council receiving this advice.

“This council managed project has been delayed for various reasons with no resolution in sight and demonstrates the precarious position council find themselves in that any future major projects undertaken by council, including the planned $13 million regional tennis centre, which is part of relocating Frankston Tennis Club, will require significant state government investment.

“This process of successfully lobbying for future funds by community groups will be significantly undermined if council continue to mismanage grants totally in the multimillion dollars destined to benefit ratepayers.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 6 November 2017

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