A Wagga councillor is questioning council's tender process for the delayed multi-million dollar Bolton Park tennis precinct redevelopment after all offers were knocked back at Monday night's meeting.
Councillors voted to decline all tenders for both the demolition of the historic Jim Elphick Tennis Centre Bolton Park Precinct and construction of the all new $8.2 million Regional Tennis Hub.
Last year, the state government awarded $5 million to Wagga City Council to redevelop the historic precinct, which once complete would encompass stage one of the Bolton Park Sports Hub master plan.
Tennis NSW has also allocated $1.25 million while Council has budgeted in the vicinity of $2 million.
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Plans for the new precinct include construction of eight new International Tennis Federation approved courts, seven synthetic grass tennis courts, two multi-use netball courts, spectator areas and a range of indoor facilities.
At the time, works were expected to be completed in 2023.
While demolition works were expected to begin shortly after the tennis centre shut its doors in May this year, no decision had yet been reached on tenders until this week.
In the first of two motions - moved by Tim Koschel and seconded by Rod Kendall - considered in confidential session on Monday, councillors authorised general manager Peter Thompson to enter into negotiations "with any person with the intention of entering into a contract" to demolish the precinct as part of stage one works."
That motion was "subject to the outcome [of]... negotiations for [the] design and construction contract," which councillors also authorised the general manager to negotiate on their behalf at the meeting in the second motion.
It's understood there were more than five tenders for the demolition and more than five for the construction phase.
But while the move is expected by councillors to speed up the approvals process, Cr Mick Henderson believes "it's not good PR" to reject the tenders and argues the process should have been different from the outset.
"Council should have put tenders out for the demolition and the design and build phase of the new [precinct] prior to shutting [the current facility] down," Cr Henderson said.
He said council "needs to act fast" in the interest of those in the tennis community affected by the delays, but is hopeful decision to authorise the general manager to decide on the tenders will help deliver an outcome sooner.
Cr Richard Foley agrees that the process has been a bit of a mess.
"It's been a dog's breakfast at the moment," he said.
Cr Foley said if council could "start again tomorrow, they [should] have all [their] prices and timeframes locked in [from the beginning]."
Meanwhile, Tim Koschel expressed confidence in the general manager to successfully negotiate the tenders.
He acknowledged a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes, but said council was "back to square one again" and things need to get a move on.
"We need those negotiations to start today... and hopefully the [parties who have submitted tenders] will be open to discussions," Cr Koschel said.
Cr Koschel also stressed it is important to do the project right the first time.
"I would rather we spend extra money now and build a quality precinct, so we don't have to look at rebuilding it another 10 to 15 years down the track," he said.
Backing the decision as an important step to speed up the project, Cr Rod Kendall said council could not accept the tenders due to "non-compliance with the tender document."
He said the tender offerings came in above and below council's budget, but is hopeful Mr Thompson can negotiate a successful deal and that the project might progress even before the year is out.
"I expect those negotiations will be finalised over the next week or two and the contracts let, so that work can start on the complex early in the new year and demolition may get underway sooner than that," Cr Kendall said.
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