Library redevelopment an ‘absolute disaster’

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A GDC councillor has slammed the HB Williams Memorial Library redevelopment project as “an absolute disaster” of cost over-runs, and chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann will review it.

Shannon Dowsing told the community development and services committee that the funding deficit was not $50,000, (as described in the agenda), but had blown out by more than $1 million, or about 25 percent.

Mr Dowsing said the original budget of $5.6m had been increased to $6,881,400 and on to an "available funding limit” of $7.3m.

“You can't tell me that a project that starts with a $5.5m budget and goes out to $7.3m, and still has a medium risk (according to the agenda) of blowing out over the top of that with a month to completion, is not a disaster.”

It was council money supported by grant funding of $349,000, which had been “hidden’’ and not discussed as an increase in costs.

“This is where deficits happen.”

The finance and audit committee also discussed the library project yesterday, and David Wilson, the council’s director of community lifelines, said Ms Thatcher Swann would review the project and report back to the committees.

Mr Dowsing told the community development and services committee he supported the library project.

“It's a beautiful project. It's going to be a wonderful building,” he said.

“But when I look at those figures, I am very disappointed at how the project has proceeded.”

Identified problems, such as increased concrete and steel costs, surveying inaccuracies and asbestos problems, did not equate with the final projected increase of more than a $1m.

Andrew White, the council’s director of transformation and relationships, said he took on board Mr Dowsing’s comments.

Scope of project changes

The scope of the project had changed and councillors had been kept up-to-date with unexpected changes. The project had started at $3.3m and councillors decided to move to a $5.5m project.

Most of the funding came not from council but from benefactors. The benefactors had agreed to fund scope changes and “the unexpected”.

The project would be reviewed and as with all projects there would be “learnings”.

“This has been a successful project. We are $30,000 over the project’s cost.’’

Pat Seymour said she agreed with Mr Dowsing’s concerns. The project consisted substantially of a new building, which should have been managed by those who took the contract.

There were lessons to learn, with the Lawson Field Theatre project potentially about to start.

The council had recently discussed the scope of the Olympic Pool project, she said. It had been costed at $28.5m, with the council committed to only $5.6m, leaving the remainder to funders.

“Frankly we are going to have to reconsider the scope of the pool,’’ Mrs Seymour said.

“We have gone for the A grade, best bells-and-whistles project. What's going to happen with a project that starts at $28m? We are being so ambitious. We don’t seem to have good control over the the idiosyncrasies of a project.

“We have to learn from this and not repeat this in other projects, otherwise we will run out of good will from local and national funders."

Graeme Thomson told the finance and audit committee meeting that ‘‘something has gone horribly wrong” with the library project.

Original budget met

The original budget of $5.5m was ‘‘all paid up”. (That consisted of the council providing $1.75m, with donations from the estates of Stanley Green, Hannah Dunlop and Jessie Iris Jeffreys of $1.75m, and donations from the JN Williams Memorial Trust ($1m) and Eastland Community Trust ($860,000).

Mr Thomson said that was followed by about $1.5m in over-spending for “all sorts of excuses’’.

“We had to front up.’’

There was a $350,000 grant and another $50,000.

“We have gone over budget by about $2m.’’

Mr Thomson said the difference was significant compared to what had been approved.

“We’ve got some big projects coming up. We want to fully understand what went wrong here.”

It probably involved “over-scoping’’ and issues around project management, and there should be a full review of what went wrong.

Bill Burdett said the financial woes should be left to the chief executive to say what happened.

Mr Dowsing said he supported a full review, and the matter needed to come back to the full council. He disagreed with the council’s terminology of “total funds available”.

Total funds available meant the limits of council’s borrowing. Budget was the term that should aways be referenced, he said.

A GDC councillor has slammed the HB Williams Memorial Library redevelopment project as “an absolute disaster” of cost over-runs, and chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann will review it.

Shannon Dowsing told the community development and services committee that the funding deficit was not $50,000, (as described in the agenda), but had blown out by more than $1 million, or about 25 percent.

Mr Dowsing said the original budget of $5.6m had been increased to $6,881,400 and on to an "available funding limit” of $7.3m.

“You can't tell me that a project that starts with a $5.5m budget and goes out to $7.3m, and still has a medium risk (according to the agenda) of blowing out over the top of that with a month to completion, is not a disaster.”

It was council money supported by grant funding of $349,000, which had been “hidden’’ and not discussed as an increase in costs.

“This is where deficits happen.”

The finance and audit committee also discussed the library project yesterday, and David Wilson, the council’s director of community lifelines, said Ms Thatcher Swann would review the project and report back to the committees.

Mr Dowsing told the community development and services committee he supported the library project.

“It's a beautiful project. It's going to be a wonderful building,” he said.

“But when I look at those figures, I am very disappointed at how the project has proceeded.”

Identified problems, such as increased concrete and steel costs, surveying inaccuracies and asbestos problems, did not equate with the final projected increase of more than a $1m.

Andrew White, the council’s director of transformation and relationships, said he took on board Mr Dowsing’s comments.

Scope of project changes

The scope of the project had changed and councillors had been kept up-to-date with unexpected changes. The project had started at $3.3m and councillors decided to move to a $5.5m project.

Most of the funding came not from council but from benefactors. The benefactors had agreed to fund scope changes and “the unexpected”.

The project would be reviewed and as with all projects there would be “learnings”.

“This has been a successful project. We are $30,000 over the project’s cost.’’

Pat Seymour said she agreed with Mr Dowsing’s concerns. The project consisted substantially of a new building, which should have been managed by those who took the contract.

There were lessons to learn, with the Lawson Field Theatre project potentially about to start.

The council had recently discussed the scope of the Olympic Pool project, she said. It had been costed at $28.5m, with the council committed to only $5.6m, leaving the remainder to funders.

“Frankly we are going to have to reconsider the scope of the pool,’’ Mrs Seymour said.

“We have gone for the A grade, best bells-and-whistles project. What's going to happen with a project that starts at $28m? We are being so ambitious. We don’t seem to have good control over the the idiosyncrasies of a project.

“We have to learn from this and not repeat this in other projects, otherwise we will run out of good will from local and national funders."

Graeme Thomson told the finance and audit committee meeting that ‘‘something has gone horribly wrong” with the library project.

Original budget met

The original budget of $5.5m was ‘‘all paid up”. (That consisted of the council providing $1.75m, with donations from the estates of Stanley Green, Hannah Dunlop and Jessie Iris Jeffreys of $1.75m, and donations from the JN Williams Memorial Trust ($1m) and Eastland Community Trust ($860,000).

Mr Thomson said that was followed by about $1.5m in over-spending for “all sorts of excuses’’.

“We had to front up.’’

There was a $350,000 grant and another $50,000.

“We have gone over budget by about $2m.’’

Mr Thomson said the difference was significant compared to what had been approved.

“We’ve got some big projects coming up. We want to fully understand what went wrong here.”

It probably involved “over-scoping’’ and issues around project management, and there should be a full review of what went wrong.

Bill Burdett said the financial woes should be left to the chief executive to say what happened.

Mr Dowsing said he supported a full review, and the matter needed to come back to the full council. He disagreed with the council’s terminology of “total funds available”.

Total funds available meant the limits of council’s borrowing. Budget was the term that should aways be referenced, he said.

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