May 23rd, 2021Hepburn Hub at The Rex project in doubt
The current Hepburn Hub at The Rex project may be cancelled.
At its Tuesday, May 18 meeting, Hepburn Shire Council received a report on the proposed Hub as part of a commitment to provide a monthly update to the community and to be open and transparent about the project.
At the meeting Cr Jen Bray said the delays at The Rex had been a “very frustrating” process for the project team, councillors and the community.
Cr Bray asked Infrastructure director Bruce Lucas: “At what point does the council draw a line in the sand and say ‘enough’s enough’? Given the frustrations of the community, councillors and staff with the delays of the start of the build of The Rex project, have the project team considered the option to terminate the contract with the current builder and to look at other options?”
Mr Lucas replied that officers continued to look at all options and there was provision for the council to terminate the building contract.
Cr Bray later told The Local: “It is the responsible thing to do, at this stage, given the delays and associated costs with The Rex project, to bring all the information before us to make an informed evidence-based decision about how to proceed. No decision will be made until all these factors have been carefully considered.”
A media release issued by council last Wednesday, May 19, said: “Works onsite have not commenced since the awarding of the building contract at the September 2020 council meeting, due to queries from the contractor on the condition of the building and additional works not included in the original scope.”
Hepburn Shire Mayor Cr Lesley Hewitt said councillors fully understood the frustrations of the community with the project.
“We have asked council officers to facilitate a workshop where councillors can be advised of the implications, financial and non-financial, of exploring all options when it comes to the project, including ceasing it. It’s important we explore the legal implications of any future decisions,” she said.
“This is a complex project and works have not progressed as expected. We are currently negotiating with the builder and working with them daily to resolve some of these issues.”
Cr Hewitt said a $3 million loan approved at the Tuesday council meeting would fund works that had already been approved – it was not additional money required for the project, which currently has a price tag of around $13 million.
Meanwhile, the completion date of June or July this year has been delayed until at least October if the project goes ahead.
The building, a former theatre, was bought by Hepburn Shire Council in 2016 for $6.345 million. The project stalled in June 2018 after it was realised the renovation cost would be more than $1 million, creating a need for a planning permit.
The empty building already has two large David Bromley murals, on the wall leading up to the cinema and on the wall outside staff toilets.
A social enterprise cafe, which would have provided hospitality work experience to young people, has been dropped because government funding for the library relied on a metreage space, and the cafe impinged on that.
Above, the hoped for result for the Hepburn Hub at The Rex, middle, the reality in December last year, below, one of the David Bromley artworks, cartoon, one idea for the Hub
Words & images: Donna Kelly