Council walks from stadium upgrade

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FRANKSTON Council has walked away from funding any part of a proposed $12.7 million upgrade of the Frankston Basketball Stadium after months of negotiations over the signing of a new lease for the stadium.

Council also vowed to have $5.2 million of federal government funding and $2.5 million of state government funding for the project reallocated elsewhere in the latest salvo of an increasingly bitter stoush with the Frankston & District Basketball Association (FDBA).

Council and the FDBA have been at odds over revised lease terms amid disagreement on retractable seating being part of the initial scope of the upgrade and control of a car park.

The existing stadium was fully funded by the association and is located on council-owned land at Bardia Avenue in Seaford.

A majority of councillors have insisted the FDBA hand over detailed financial accounts rather than audited accounts provided for years under the association’s existing lease.

It is understood that the association offered last week to hand over the detailed financials to state government body Sports and Recreation Victoria (SRV) to report to council but this compromise was rejected by council.

Councillors last Monday evening (20 November) voted behind closed doors after council’s monthly public meeting to withdraw $4.5 million of ratepayers’ money from the stadium upgrade project.

The Times can reveal a 7-2 majority of councillors voted to walk away from the stadium project.

The mayor Colin Hampton and crs Kris Bolam, Brian Cunial, Sandra Mayor, deputy mayor Lillian O’Connor, Michael O’Reilly and Steve Toms voted to pull the plug on council’s contribution.

Crs Glenn Aitken and Quinn McCormack voted to not pull the funding at this stage.

After the meeting, a media statement claimed Frankston Council “commits to future of sports in Frankston” despite walking away from the basketball stadium project.

The mayor said in the statement that the FDBA “reneged on agreements and drove too hard a bargain”.

“Nobody is a winner out of this. As a council we were ready and willing to commence work on delivering a terrific updated facility. Instead, we will refocus our efforts on providing improved basketball facilities in other ways for our community,” Cr Hampton said.

“The decision to withdraw from the project was made for reasons beyond council’s control and in the best interests of the entire Frankston City community after two-and-a-half years of negotiations failed to reach an agreement.

“Agreements that were made at an earlier meeting overseen by former federal member for Dunkley Bruce Bilson on lease arrangements, project scope and for the FDBA to provide full financial accounts have failed to be met and for this reason, the project cannot continue. 

The statement said council “will work with the state and federal government to ensure that the funds earmarked for the Frankston Basketball Stadium upgrade are reallocated to other sports projects in Frankston”.

Basketball Victoria slammed council’s decision to withdraw funding and said Frankston residents should question “the inability of this council to support its constituents and enhance the sporting community’s viability through infrastructure projects like Frankston Stadium”.

“It is our hope the project remains viable even without Frankston City Council’s financial contribution and Basketball Victoria will work in conjunction with Frankston District Basketball Association amongst others to make it happen,” Basketball Victoria CEO Nick Honey said.

“Basketball Victoria will continue working to provide its member associations with new facilities and redevelopments to guarantee the future of Victorian basketball at all levels.”

Federal Liberal Dunkley MP Chris Crewther said he will keep the $5.2 million federal contribution to any basketball stadium upgrade “on the table for a long time”.

Mr Crewther said he is “disappointed” the FDBA and council could not reach an agreement to allow a stadium upgrade at the existing site.

“I’ll be working with all parties to ensure a basketball stadium goes ahead using our $5.2 million on the existing site, if a new agreement can be reached, or on an alternative site if it can’t.

“At worst, I will make sure that these funds are not lost to our area.”

Carrum Labor MP Sonya Kilkenny did not respond to questions about the state government contribution of $2.5 million to the stadium upgrade.

The FDBA said it will work with federal and state representatives to save the stadium upgrade without council involvement.

“The FDBA, in an act of good faith, submitted a signed lease to council last week hoping this would provide a circuit breaker to negotiations and allow the project to commence,” Association president Gary Emery said.

“This was obviously rejected by councillors but may enable the remaining funding partners to get on the with the job of building more courts.

“Clearly there is an underlying financial motive in the councillors’ desire to withdraw from the project. It must be compelling considering they are walking away from a project which would return $3 for every $1 the ratepayer has invested into the project, along with the millions of dollars of state and federal government money tied to it.”

Questions to council about how much money ratepayers will have to now fork out to builder Devco Project & Construction Management to not build the new stadium after council awarded the company the construction contract went unanswered last week.

First published in the Frankston Times – 27 November 2017

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