COUNCILLORS have waved through a plan to build a new Mentone Activity Hub in Venice St at a cost of more than $1.51 million.
The proposal was narrowly rejected at last month’s public council meeting (‘Hub on hold as building costs rise’, The News 11/3/15) amid concerns about the new building’s cost rising from about $1.38 million after the original winner of the tender bid pulled out.
Cr Ron Brownlees introduced a notice of motion at Monday evening’s council meeting asking councillors to reconsider the matter.
He said the proposal to build had been put to the community “over some four to five years” amid an “open” tender process.
“I’ve never seen a rejection of a proposal at such a late stage that has followed a process for two years. It has been in council’s capital works budget since 2013,” he said.
It is “not unusual” for projects to escalate in costs if a tenderer pulls out, according to Cr Brownlees.
Mayor Cr Geoff Gledhill used his mayoral casting vote to push through the construction of the Mentone Activity Hub this time around.
Crs Tamsin Bearsley, John Ronke and Brownlees supported the move.
Crs Tamara Barth, David Eden, Steve Staikos and Rosemary West opposed the proposal.
Cr Paul Peulich was absent from Monday’s meeting.
Cr West had wanted council to defer any decision until the Mentone reserve master plan is completed. An investigation into using the former council offices at Brindisi St as a community hub should also have been conducted before deciding to spend about $1.5 million, Cr West said.
“The project has been around for years but it has grown ‘like Topsy’”, she said.
The original plan would have seen the Mentone Mordialloc Arts Group leave its dilapidated Old Granary Lane building in Mentone to move to the Mentone Seniors Citizen building in Venice St.
Cr West said a refurbishment of the senior citizens building was mooted, then an expensive demolition and rebuild was called for with the escalation in building costs the latest turn of events.
“We should go back … and look at the whole situation of the needs of the community groups in Mentone and look at what can be provided on the reserve.”
Cr Staikos said the new Labor state government’s rates capping policy would likely mean council would not be able to spend money on such projects in future.
“I’m sure this is going to be a very pretty building. I’m sure it’s going to be a great building for the people who use it but … the level of disappointment I have at the moment cannot be overstated.”
Cr Staikos said the decision to build the new activity hub in Venice St flew in the face of previous council discussions about converting the Brindisi St building into a community hub.
The arts group, two senior citizens groups and Probus Club will be housed at Venice St.
The Mentone-Mordialloc Arts Group has offered to pay $100,000 towards the construction of the new Mentone Activity Hub.