Upgrade of hall on, but only just

Cromwell woman Helen Hucklebridge yesterday holds an 885-signature petition wanting the proposed...
Cromwell woman Helen Hucklebridge yesterday holds an 885-signature petition wanting the proposed Cromwell Memorial Hall upgrade to go ahead. Photo: Pam Jones.
The Cromwell Community Board  has decided to carry on with plans for a $5.4million upgrade of the Cromwell Memorial Hall — but only just.

Board chairman Neil Gillespie used his casting vote  after the vote was split 3-3 at yesterday’s  meeting.

The board spent nearly two hours discussing whether to carry on with an upgrade approved by the previous board, or go back to the drawing board.

Mr Gillespie,  Nigel McKinlay and Anna Harrison voted in favour of the motion to  secure external funding for the upgrade and invite previous contractors to re-tender for the project, and Robin Dicey, Shirley Calvert and Annabel Blaikie voted against it. Werner Murray abstained.

Almost 30 members of the public attended the meeting, at which Cromwell woman Helen Hucklebridge presented an 885-signature petition from people wanting the board to go ahead with the upgrade. The previous board  approved a detailed design  last June, but in December the new board failed to endorse the decision and the project stalled.

Mr Gillespie said it was the first time in his 18 years of  community board involvement he had seen such a public turnout at a board meeting. There were several rounds of applause from members of the public for Mrs Hucklebridge and Mr Gillespie during the meeting, and some interjections towards  board members who were questioning the upgrade.

An alternative option was sought by Mr Dicey, who suggested delaying a decision about the hall by 12 weeks to allow an alternative design to be submitted by those behind the new Waimate Sports Complex project, which cost less than half the price per square metre of the Cromwell hall projections and was a multipurpose facility.

Mr Dicey said  there was "nothing to lose and a huge amount to gain" from revisiting the issue.

However, Mr Gillespie said previous consultation had been done with the  community about a multipurpose facility and it had not wanted that type of design.

The board was also not permitted to negotiate with only one contractor, and would be obliged to tender publicly and begin another round of consultation for any new proposals, Central Otago District Council chief executive officer Leanne Mash said.

The consultation could take up to a year, Ms Mash said.Mrs Hucklebridge  said the community just wanted the board to "get on with it".

"A new board should not be allowed to override decisions made by a previous board, when full public consultation and all possible steps to ensure due diligence had been taken, just because they want to put their own stamp on policy already decided."

She said after the meeting she was thrilled with the decision, and now hoped external funders would  support the project.

CODC property and facilities manager Mike Kerr said funding applications were already lodged with the Central Lakes Trust, Otago Community Trust and New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

It is proposed the upgrade be funded half by external funders and half from land sales.

pam.jones@odt.co.nz

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