Clarence Valley Council building on Prince Street, Grafton.
Clarence Valley Council building on Prince Street, Grafton.

$6.3m in renovations approved with one caveat

Clarence Valley Council will push ahead with plans to redevelop its Grafton administration building.

After a debate lasting well over an hour-and-a-half, councillors voted to proceed with renovations to the 2 Prince St offices at an estimated cost of $6.3 million.

The project will be funded largely by internal borrowings and is subject to state government approval.

Councillor Greg Clancy tried to stop the development, citing the need for more community consultation.

Recognising the project had been in the works for years, Cr Clancy said many people were not aware of it because it was listed “among other things” in budgets and strategic plans.

He also said the process felt rushed, with time running out on the council’s Victoria St lease which would accommodate staff during the redevelopment.

“There are a couple of members of the public who look at it (the budget) with a fine tooth comb, but not very many,” he said.

“I don’t believe it is generally understood out in the community why this is being put up and the value of it.”

His motion to reject the development was lost 7- 2.

Councillor Jason Kinsgley then moved a motion calling for an amended detailed design which included a ramp to the chamber/multipurpose room and said the current design was more like a “retrofit” which went backwards on accessibility.

“If we are spending $6.3 million dollars to upgrade the building, surely consideration should have been given to equal access to the plan prior to it coming to (the) council,” he said.

He asked the General Manager, Ashley Lindsay whether council was looking to do the “bare minimum” on accessibility or were looking to set an example for the rest of the community.

Mr Lindsay responded by saying they were providing equal access via way of the lift and could not fully understand why it would not be compliant.

Mr Kingsley explained that equal access was what already existed in the council chamber – where an able bodied person and someone in a wheelchair could enter together.

“Equal access isn’t providing some form of lift or device to bring people with disabilities up one at a time. We should be setting a precedent.”

The other Councillors agreed, saying the council needed to maintain modern standards.

“Even if we do discover it is going to cost $100,000 … then perhaps we need to trim something else,” Councillor Karen Toms said.

“Because we can’t go backwards, we need equal access,” Cr Toms said.

Cr Clancy and Debrah Novak voted to reject the development.