Councillors debate “what ifs” on prime CBD site

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times

Bunbury city councillors are at loggerheads over “what ifs” and potential future costs of bringing the Souths Furniture building up to scratch if it enters into a contract to buy the CBD property next week.

The council discussed the matter for more than 30 minutes during a briefing session on Tuesday night when Mayor Gary Brennan on several occasions had to remind councillors the issue would be debated next week and the session was purely for questions only.

Chief executive officer Mal Osborne has been in negotiations with the South family after it approached the council to buy the building following the furniture store’s closure last year.

The council in January locked in a decision to buy the property, subject to the findings of a due diligence report on the site.

The findings of the report and the price of the Wellington Street property are being kept under wraps due to commercial in confidence, but it is recommended the purchase be funded by dipping into the council’s Building Restoration and Maintenance Reserve along with the 2017-18 Budget closing surplus and proceeds from the recent sale of a drainage reserve.

Based on that recommendation from council staff, the price could tip the million-dollar mark with the South Western Times understanding the drainage reserve sale was worth $1.08 million, the reserve has $353,000 in it at the moment and the forecast surplus is also $353,000.

Cr Brendan Kelly was persistent with his questions on Tuesday night saying he was trying to find out “what our liability is with this building”.

“If we’re going to buy this building and if we’re going to spend upwards of $1 million getting it tickety-boo, then that must come into consideration of this council,” Cr Kelly said.

Mr Brennan responded that Cr Kelly was “throwing a figure around” without any evidence.

“That’s why I’m asking the CEO to provide evidence Mr Mayor – he did the due diligence report, there’s not a cent in there,” Cr Kelly responded.

Mr Brennan said the council would make a decision whether to accept the report or not next week.

After several questions about the site’s future, Mr Brennan said the council was dealing with securing the property for the “long-term benefit” of the community.

“We can keep on developing scenarios about what if and what’s possible, but we have to deal with what we’ve got at the moment and that is to secure the building or not secure the building,” he said.

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