Council backs $10m Sumner centre

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 14/05/2014

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The Christchurch City Council is likely to proceed with plans for a $10 million library and community centre in Sumner despite concerns being raised about the cost of the project.

At a special joint meeting of the council's community committee and the Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board elected members voted yesterday to move the project on to the next stage and approve up to $9.17m in council funding to supplement the $1.4m already received through insurance payouts for the old Sumner library and community centre buildings.

However, not all councillors are convinced the council should be spending so much money.

Councillors Jimmy Chen, Phil Clearwater and Ali Jones voted against making the funding commitment.

Council staff have been investigating options for replacing the library and community centre since both were damaged beyond repair in the February 2011 earthquake.

They have developed a concept plan which would see a combined facility built on Wakefield Ave that has a library, a museum display area, community office on the ground floor and a community hall, kitchen and further museum space on the first floor.

The overall cost of the project has been estimated at $10.2m, which includes $1m for buying additional land for off-street parking.

Project manager Lincoln Blair told the joint meeting the design concept had been arrived at after consultation with the community and reflected their wish to see services restored.

At no stage had staff been asked to keep costs down, but the concept design had no "gold-plating".

When asked whether the project could be staged so as to spread out the costs, Blair said potentially the library could be built on the ground floor and the community centre added at a later date.

Community committee chairman Cr Yani Johanson urged elected members to commit the full $10.2m, saying the council needed to move forward with the project and give some certainty to the Sumner community.

"It is a drop in the bucket comparatively to what money is being spent in the central city," he pointed out.

Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board chairwoman Sara Templeton also urged the council to put money aside in the budget for the new combined facility, arguing it would be unfair for it to ask the community to buy into the process if there was no guarantee the project would go ahead.

Jones said she accepted there was a need for new facilities in Sumner but she was not yet at a point where she could say yes to the suggested budget.

"It's a huge amount of money and we need to look at where we can save," Jones said. "I cannot support the spend of this kind of money."

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Clearwater said he would prefer to see a staged version of the project put forward that reflected the tight financial position the council was in.

Cr Andrew Turner said Sumner was a community that had been devastated by the earthquakes and there was clearly a need for new community facilities.

He supported the project in principle, but had reservations about the size of the budget.

Staff have promised they will explore whether outside funding can be secured for the project.

- The Press

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