No merger but quake plan stays

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 29/05/2014

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A proposed merger of Dannevirke's library and town service centre has been shelved, but the Tararua District Council has been left with a headache concerning earthquake-prone buildings.

Quake-prone buildings dominated the agenda as the council worked through its draft Annual Plan yesterday ahead of its final sign-off next month.

The biggest variation made at a meeting in Dannevirke was a vote not to combine the town's service centre and library into one building.

The council had received 87 submissions about the proposed merger, with seven in favour and 80 against the move, including one submission with a petition of 118 signatures.

Councillor Shirley Hull said the message from submitters was clear and councillors needed to listen.

The decision means the council will not save money through the improved efficiency of running both the service centre and the library under one roof.

It also raised the question of what to do with the earthquake-prone service centre building.

The bill for the strengthening of that property was most recently estimated to be $274,000.

Council chief executive Blair King said councillors needed to decide whether to act now or wait until the Government passed its earthquake-prone building legislation, by which time the cost of the project would have gone up.

"The cost of materials and the cost of that construction are increasing," King said.

This was happening at levels "far greater" than the rate of inflation.

There was $274,000 in the draft Annual Plan for the work, which had been carried over from the current financial year, he said.

The $274,000 price tag was an estimate though and more detailed work was being done now to refine that figure.

Hull said it was possible then that the actual cost could be less than $274,000, if the problems with the building were less severe than first thought or the Government eased requirements on fixing earthquake-prone buildings.

At present the legislation, which is still before Parliament, requires buildings that meet less than 33 per cent of the current building code to be identified within five years and strengthened within 15.

Councillor David Roberts suggested holding off on the repairs for a year until the council had all the information it needed. The council should also look at fundraising options, he said.

Councillor Warren Davidson said it was time the council bit the bullet.

"If we keep putting it off we'll keep finding excuses and never do it," he said.

The council also had to consider the message it was sending to other owners of at-risk buildings, he said.

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"It we keep dragging the chain, how can we expect other building owners to act responsibly and do the work that's required?"

The council voted to keep the $274,000 in this year's budget.

It also voted to consider its options for the Dannevirke Carnegie Centre, another earthquake-prone building in the Tararua District.

The cost of strengthening work for the building is estimated at $280,000.

The council had received 16 submissions related to the building. Nine were in favour of carrying out strengthening work, five were opposed, one saw the Pahiatua Service Centre as a higher priority and one opposed the building's closure.

The council opted to look at the potential for a charitable trust to be set up to fundraise for the building's repair.

Roberts said he preferred dealing with the building through a trust "rather than waste $280,000 of taxpayers' money on it".

The last historic building on the agenda was the former BNZ Bank building in Woodville.

Its owner Hermann Goeckel had offered the art deco building to the council along with the $260,000 debt attached to it.

The council declined the offer.

The council also opted to lighten the average rates increase of 3.46 per cent slightly by using $225,000 from reserves to fund some of next year's expenditure.

- Manawatu Standard

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