A STOP to negotiations over a tender granted to a Victorian company to build the $8 million Northern Indoor Leisure Centre has been ordered by Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash.
Cr Gash’s intervention was prompted by concerns raised by Cr Andrew Guile after Tuesday night’s council meeting voted in favour of the tender submitted by Etch Architectural Solutions, rejecting local tenderers Edmiston Jones, Facility Design Group, GHD and i architecture.
Cr Gash will co-sign a recission motion drawn up by Cr Guile, with the third signature expected from Cr Amanda Findley.
The motion calls for the decision on the tender to be deferred, allowing general manager Russ Pigg to brief councillors about how the tender evaluation panel arrived at its recommendation to award the work to Etch.
Cr Guile has also written to Mr Pigg outlining his concerns. He has asked Mr Pigg to verify how all the tenders were submitted and whether or not they were accessed progressively or at the same time.
Cr Guile was particularly concerned about the rejection of local company Facility Design Group, whose principal Stephen Johannson had been involved in putting together the concept design for the centre, which will replace the old basketball stadium in Bomaderry.
Cr Gash, who was not present when the tender issue was discussed in a closed session of the council, said she was appalled by the decision.
“I understand Mr Johannson was quite involved in the past. I don’t know the prices of the other tenders,” she said.
“I need to know how this decision was made. Normally, staff make a recommendation and councillors can choose whether or not to accept it. Not having been there, I have noted the concern and want a further briefing, which is in my rights as mayor.”
Because the tender was discussed in confidential session, it is not known whether the difference between the winning submission and Mr Johansson’s bid fell within the 5 per cent threshold of awarding contracts to locals, which is a standing council policy.
Mr Johansson was furious when he learnt he had missed out on the tender for a project with which he had been intimately involved.
“I was quite shattered,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr Johansson has designed and built numerous indoor sports centres throughout Australia, including the Tamworth Sports Dome which was hailed by Sydney Kings basketball coach Ian Robilliard in May 2011 as a “magnificent facility”.
“There’s only one I can think of, in Perth, that can match it,” Mr Robilliard told the Northern Daily Leader at the time.
John Martin, a Shoalhaven Basketball life member and technical consultant for the Federation of International Basketball Associations, was also dismayed by the decision to overlook Mr Johansson’s bid.
“I’m very disappointed. Mr Johansson made a great concept plan. We’ve been excited by his design and now there is the possibility it might get changed,” Mr Martin said.
“We had in it two halls, we had meeting rooms and function rooms, which are lacking in most similar facilities.
“We had a good design for the kiosk area and it was to include the Shoalhaven Hall of Sporting Fame. It allowed for future expansion and its design for showers, toilet and amenities – and importantly storage – was outstanding.”
He said the user groups – representing basketball, netball, volleyball and indoor soccer – had met for more than two-and-a-half years to fine tune Mr Johansson’s design.
The prospect of that design changing was certainly unwelcome, Mr Martin said.
“We do not want a lemon,” he said.