The last meeting of the council which oversaw the redevelopment of Margaret River’s main street heard members play down the $3.6 million ratepayer-backed overrun of the project’s $10.8 million budget. As reported by the Times, pre-engineering works and fast-tracking during last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns were the main contributors to the blown budget. Councillors made no reference to the “fundamental omissions and errors in the early design stages” outlined in the budget report which resulted from a major technical failure involving the project’s comprehensive stormwater system. Redesign work cost almost $250,000, while $259,000 extra was spent to reconnect buildings to the system, and an extra $277,500 to design and build an irrigation system forgotten in the initial plans, as well as $283,000 extra to replace old Water Corporation asbestos pipes. The Shire also paid $190,000 in “stand-down costs”, $488,000 in costs blamed on weather delays and fast-tracking construction during the winter, and $91,000 to meet the December 2020 project deadline. Corporate and community development director James Shepherd, who was hired after the initial project planning, told councillors the Shire team “always knew it was going to be a big challenge”. The project lost two project managers in the early stages before bringing the whole project in-house. “We worked as hard as possible to keep the costs down,” Mr Shepherd said. Cr Kylie Kennaugh said: “At the end of the day, I think it was a bloody good outcome and it could’ve been much worse.” Her view set the tone for councillors unanimously accepting the main street report. The report detailed the ire of main street traders, including those locked out from trade during the 2020 Easter long weekend when the stormwater errors were discovered. However, councill-ors said the angst proved worthwhile. “A lot of people who were complaining initially are happy — they see what they got,” Cr Brian Daniel said. Cr Ian Earl said the council set aside money for the contingencies. “Once you dig up your main street, we always had to continue to the other end, almost regardless of what it cost,” he said. “It is what it is, but it was a great outcome.” A total 150 contract variations were submitted during the project.