The City of Bunbury Council have voted to consider raising the Koombana Bay footbridge once they are provided with final designs and exact costs.
Council now has until September 22 to receive and consider a full report from the chief executive officer which will outline working drawings and possible funding sources for three options – to maintain the bridge at its current height as per previous council decision, to raise the height by 600mm across the full length, or to raise the height 1400mm to that of the traffic bridge.
Boating WA vice-president Kim Wilkies, former Bunbury Yacht Club commodore Noel Seymour and Bunbury businessman Colin Piacentini all presented to council to express their concerns over safety and tourism issues in regards to leaving the bridge height as it is.
“We, the boating community, demand that the safety aspect of this footbridge be addressed,” Mr Seymour said.
“There’s never been a reported incident or a problem with passive and power boat users both using the inlet… we want to engage the whole community in this inlet.”
“We need people to be able to have access and come into the inlet so they can walk into the CBD,” Mr Piacentini continued.
“Moving forward, raise this bridge and restrict the movement of boats to five knots and we will have a great area there to enhance tourism and everybody can enjoy that area.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, council voted six votes to four against the executive recommendation to stick to the status quo and leave the bridge height as is.
The recommendation read that “council having considered all options available to it in relation to raising the Koombana Footbridge, and taking into account the timing of the request for raising the bridge and the limited budget capacity, resolves to reinforce its original decision and not raise the level of the new Koombana Footbridge.”
It was only supported by Deputy Mayor Brendan Kelly and councillors Wendy Giles, James Hayward and Jaysen De San Miguel.
Councillor Kelly expressed his concerns for the environment and also the influx of bigger boats in a passive recreation area if the bridge was to be raised, while Cr Hayward had financial concerns.
“I actually have no problems with more boats in the inlet and I am supportive of the bridge being lifted but we simply don’t have the funds available to pay for the work to be complete."Councillor James Hayward.
“I’m concerned that we are giving false hope to the people in this room tonight that in some, a month’s time, that we’ll be in a position to spend $300,000 or $400,000 to be able to achieve this and I just don’t believe, looking at our budget, that that’s going to be something we’re going to be able to do.
“Frankly councillors, I think we need to be more honest and upfront with our constituents. We need to say that it is a missed opportunity and I share your frustration but to re-fix that problem at this point in our negotiations with the contract we have in place, would be unwise.
“If we’re not going to be able to fund it in September, why would we be putting off that decision? It should be made tonight, people should understand where they stand and we should be able to get on with it.”
Councillors then looked to the alternate motion moved by Betty McCleary to seek final design drawings and financial implications, with a report brought back to council by September 22.
Officers will consider the costs and ability to raise the height by 600mm and 1400mm. To raise the height by 600mm is expected to cost an additional $379,500 in earthworks and retaining, design fees, owners costs, contractor profit and contingencies, while a 1400mm raise is estimated to cost $528,000.
Both options are expected to result in additional time for completion, pushing the date of the project past its December 1 deadline making it therefore likely to incur contractual costs from Ertech. The Mail understands the financial penalties are close to $30,000 for every week the project is delayed.
Despite previously suggesting that the decision of Council’s to keep the height unchanged could not be rescinded, Mayor Gary Brennan supported the motion to reconsider the bridge height.
“I want to know precisely what the costs will be at what the design is and what the costs are to that 90 per cent effective level so that when I make a decision on behalf of this community that I represent, I know fully what the costs will be and where that funding will be coming from,” he said.
“It’s a complex issue as you can see but I believe that by finding those true costs and having the discussions with the good people in the room and elsewhere about how we can creatively and cleverly do this which the community can afford is the way to go.
“Let’s get the facts, that have been quite properly challenged, and present them back to council to make an informed decision no later than the end of September.”
The alternate motion to reconsider raising the bridge and making this decision by September 22 was supported by eight councillors, with Cr Cook and Cr Steele voting against the motion.