A fierce pushback from some of Margaret River’s leading business figures has not deterred councillors from endorsing a new tender for the main street redevelopment, which is now on track to start in February.
Heated scenes at the annual electors’ meeting on Wednesday afternoon saw the main strip’s biggest traders join ex-councillor Linton Hodsdon in moving three motions calling for a halt to the tender process, reconsideration of the main street design, and to strip chief executive Stephanie Addison-Brown of delegated powers around carparking and streetscape design.
Those motions were unanimously rejected by councillors during the later meeting, with Cr Pauline McLeod abstaining because of her own business interests.
As reported last week, uncertainty around the number of carparking bays lost in the upgrade were central to complaints.
Mr Hodsdon also voiced concerns new contractor Busselton Civil lacked the muscle to carry out the project he wanted revised to deliver the whole upgrade within the $8.68 million budget — including a rethink on the “peanut-about” slated for the Tunbridge Street intersection labelled “a disaster”.
Answering public questions, Ms Addison-Brown said 36 bays would be lost in the first stage of the works, but overall, two extra bays would be added “within a 30-second walk” of the main street.
Mr Hodsdon and supporters believed the number was 67 from 140 existing bays in the first two stages.
Meeka House owner Jennifer Gherardi and other business owners raised serious concerns about the loss of bays affecting trade.
Settlers Holdings’ Rachel House told the Times the Shire seemed uninterested in feedback from the biggest companies most affected by the upgrade.
But Ms Addison-Brown repeatedly said the Shire plan had been formed via thorough public consultation and the council backed her position.
Traders were also not thrilled at the lack of available details on engineering works, uncertainty around carparking numbers, and the main street item coming late to the council agenda.
The report reinforced those concerns, with 26 construction firms requesting tender details, but only two submitting tenders.
Busselton Civil was the only firm to tender under budget — with future stages of the upgrade as yet unfunded and criticised by Mr Hodsdon as unfair to traders at risk of missing out — but previous contractor Georgiou failed to meet the project’s budget.
“Some potential risk was highlighted in relation to BCP’s capacity to deliver the project based on their organisational size,” the report said.
Due diligence checks were undertaken, but the fine details were in confidential reports not released to ratepayers.
Ratepayers will contribute $3.132 million from cash-backed reserves and other funds.
Mr Hodsdon also asked for a rethink on the Fearn Avenue festival precinct and to undertake detailed traffic analysis before moving ahead.