Costs delay Margaret River upgrade

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Margaret River main street
PIC : Derek Pool
Camera IconMargaret River main street PIC : Derek Pool

A jump in costs during the past five years has stalled this year’s main street redevelopment after the best tenders came in more than $3 million above budget.

On Wednesday, councillors rejected all bids and gave acting chief executive Dale Putland power to find a way through the gridlock.

After Wednesday’s special meeting, the Times was told Shire of Augusta-Margaret River planners expected a price rise because of the time taken for the linked perimeter road project to finish.

But the best tender was far beyond the project’s $8 million budget and now the Shire will seek the State Government’s support to finish the redevelopment.

The upgrade was always linked to the bypass, Shire president Pam Townshend said, and the meeting was told there was no hope to start the project before winter, anyway.

The main street was not yet “handed over” to the Shire, which was part of the process with bypass builder Main Roads WA.

“We have to be fiscally responsible and we have limited capacity to borrow and would prefer not to ask the ratepayers for more money,” Cr Townshend said. At the meeting, Cr Ian Earl said the Shire had a responsibility to finish the job and if progress was swift, the redevelopment might recommence this year, but after winter rainfall eased. Although councillors might not want to borrow money to finish the road, Wednesday’s decision ultimately gives the Shire that option as well as the chance to tighten next year’s infrastructure budget to produce the needed funds.

Borrowings, drawing on existing reserves, and dollar-matching funding agreements with the WA Government were also options.

Councillors rejected the bids because they could not allow further negotiations until a decision was made.

The decision also allowed Dr Putland to deal direct with Perth construction firm Georgiou Group about the project costs. Cr Townshend said the council still wanted the redevelopment delivered in full for the sake of the whole community’s benefit.

Last year, councillors heard some of the desired design and public art elements could add to the project cost.

The redevelopment was slated to start this month, with the local business community worried about disruptions after weak trading conditions.

The plan divides the main street into three precincts, with work to have started near the river, culminating in construction of a major new roundabout at Bussell Highway’s intersection with Wallcliffe Road.

A public briefing will be held at the Shire offices on Thursday at 5.30pm.

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