Council releases statement on Civic Precinct. In next week’s edition of the Yass Valley Times, we bring you the people’s perspective.

Council has officially endorsed 209 Comur Street as the preferred location for the redevelopment of a new Civic Precinct.

In February 2020, Council identified a Civic Precinct – comprising a new library, community meeting rooms, office accommodation, eCommerce small business centre, short term accommodation and long term tenants – as a key future infrastructure project for the community.

Council resolved to fund necessary design work during 2020/21 to progress the project and inform a further Council decision about funding construction.  As part of this, Council has engaged property and infrastructure specialists APP Corporation Pty Ltd to provide the required project management skills that are unable to be retained by Council on an ongoing basis. APP has coordinated tenders and RFQs for submissions for 17 project-related disciplines necessary for a project of this scale and complexity.

The community was invited to participate during this process with submissions called for on the preferred location and the overall scope of works. From the feedback, two key sites were identified – the current site at 209 Comur Street and a parcel of land on Rossi Street, which extends into Riverbank Park.

A Council report on both options set out why Rossi Street was prohibitive in terms of flood risk, heritage considerations and avoidable additional financial costs to the public.

At the Council meeting on Wednesday, 24 February, Councillors endorsed 209 Comur Street as the ideal location for any future Civic Precinct redevelopment.

Deputy Mayor Nathan Furry chaired the meeting in the absence of Mayor Rowena Abbey. Following the meeting, he said the endorsement reinforces the sentiment shared by previous Councils.

“Confirming the location for the Civic Precinct as 209 Comur Street builds upon a decision made by Councillors almost two decades ago. It reaffirms the common belief in our community that this site is the best suited and well-known home for our Chambers and Administrative Offices. For our staff, it provides certainty of the location and allows progress on the Civic Precinct to continue,” said Cr Furry.

During the discussion, Councillor Michael McManus said he too was “very happy” to re-endorse a motion that was put forward some 20 years ago. “The purchase of all the land and the swap with Aldi wasn’t done on the whim of staff, it was actually done on the direction of a long lost Council…this [209 Comur Street] is the heart of the town and the place for Council to be and to grow and I hope this is the first step in a new project that comes to fruition.”

Cr Jasmin Jones said this is the first time anyone has seen Council state in writing, “why we believe 209 is the right location…I’m conscious that this is not just one building, it is a suite of buildings that is required… and the numbers have to be stacked up against all the other infrastructure that our community needs. I’m conscious that we might have to be a bit more frugal and as much as I would love to give our hard-working staff office water views, I don’t think we can manage it.”

 In closing the debate, Cr Turner congratulated Council staff for the “comprehensive rationale” behind choosing this site as opposed to Riverbank Park. “My heart is in the Riverbank Park…but this rationale is such that we own this land, it is obligated to develop this land and I commend the motion.”

 Councillors also determined to make funds available for the preparation of documents required for the project to proceed to the stage where it will be deemed ‘shovel ready.’ As a result, $672,000 will be allocated in the 2020/21 budget for the completion of a master plan, schematic design and all necessary development approval documentation.

 “Even though I wasn’t at the meeting, I have been very supportive of Council having plans in place for key infrastructure so we can move quickly to implement should the opportunity arise. The endorsement of a site for the Civic Precinct and the decision to start preparing plans will ensure Yass Valley is in a position to be shovel ready for this important project,” said Mayor Rowena Abbey.

 Council’s General Manager, Chris Berry said it was important to reiterate that Council is not prioritising the Civic Precinct over other projects such as a new Water Treatment Plant. He said the two are incomparable, in that they must be financed from completely separate income streams.

 “Under legislation, Council’s finances for water and sewer projects must be managed and funded separately to other new operational infrastructure such as the Civic Precinct. The cost of a new Water Treatment Plant can only be funded by Government grants and/or charges levied for users of Yass water. The money cannot be taken from one project and transferred to another,” Mr Berry explained.

 “Council is capable of managing these two major projects, both with significant community benefits, concurrently.”

 Mr Berry said all community members will be invited to participate in the design phase of the Civic Precinct and their input will be incorporated, wherever possible, within the overall scope of the project.