By CAM LUCADOU-WELLS
A COST blow-out could yet cause Greater Dandenong Council to scuttle plans for a long-awaited Asian gateway in Springvale.
Councillors narrowly voted to retain the project, which had attracted tenders ranging from $945,000 to more than $1 million – about triple the council’s pre-tender estimates.
In an effort to drive down costs, the council has chosen not to accept any of the tenders but will send a delegation on up to three trips to China to procure materials and oversee quality control at a cost of up to $20,100.
A council report estimates it can rein in the project’s cost to between $621,000-$759,000 – which still may exceed the project’s approved $645,000 budget.
The project is co-funded by its proponent the Springvale Asian Business Association ($200,000) and the state Office of Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship ($175,000).
The council has vowed to pitch in $270,000, with additional costs met with unidentified savings in the council’s capital works budget.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said the majority of councillors “just want to see the project delivered”.
The council would cause damage to goodwill with Springvale’s main traders body if it was to “abruptly pull out”, he said.
Councillor Peter Brown, in opposing the project, said its utility was surpassed by the anticipated benefits of removing Springvale’s level crossing .
He questioned the wisdom of investing $1 million in “an archway of no commercial benefit, in an area of Springvale that does not need it and to which increasing numbers of residents are becoming opposed”.
“You’ve still got to look at value for money,” he said. “Should we proceed with the project at any cost?”
Greater Dandenong chief executive John Bennie said last week the council had not made a final decision on “whether or not it will proceed with the project”.
“If it chooses to proceed council will complete the project in the 2014-’15 financial year.”
The gateway, proposed as a regional landmark near the corner of Buckingham and Windsor avenues, has been a controversial target since it was announced in 2010.
Last year, it was attacked by the South East Melbourne Vietnamese Association for being “too Chinese” in design – leading to a compromise design including Chinese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and English calligraphy.
Springvale Asian Business Association spokesman Stan Chang said he’d leave the cost question to the council.
The association has deposited $160,000 of its project contribution with the council.
According to the council report, part if not all of the structure could come from China, where fabricators specialise in making such gateways.
Some components such as earthenware tiles cannot be sourced locally, it stated.
“Council will endeavour to find local suppliers capable of delivering part of the structure; however the cost and risk to co-ordinate is higher.”
The council plans to use local builders to assemble the structure.