Work on the $15.1 million Crown Street Mall refurbishment will be delayed another two weeks after Wollongong City Council voted against finalising any of the outstanding tenders for the project.
Councillors voted on Monday to formally reject all submissions for the tenders covering both the main construction work and the supply of pavers.
They instead agreed to negotiate with the companies individually to spell out their requirements and get the best price.
The start date for the mall refurbishment hinges on finalising the outstanding tenders, as councillors had agreed on the need to sign off on all the mall contracts so they knew the overall cost of the revamp before it went ahead.
However, council staff claim none of the parties who bid for the construction tender provided suitable submissions, either offering too conservative a price or misunderstanding the specifications and terms of the contract.
Staff also deemed the pavers originally approved for the project too light in colour and recommended parties be asked for a quote on supplying darker ones.
Labor councillor David Brown said while he was disappointed the unresolved tenders meant a delay in the start date for the project, it was the council's responsibility to get it right.
"This is clearly a huge-ticket item for the city," he said.
Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs was also disappointed in the delay, but reiterated the council's commitment to delivering the project on time and within budget.
Independent councillor Greg Petty attempted to have the council set up a new advisory group, consisting of himself, the council's general manager David Farmer and a member of the internal audit committee, to finalise negotiations with the tenderers.
He argued the cost of the project had escalated greatly since it was first put forward in 2010 and needed a stronger level of scrutiny.
An amended motion he put forward to establish the new group was ultimately defeated, but not before other councillors blasted his suggestions that they were not scrutinising the mall project closely enough.
"I take great offence at any thought that we're not doing what we were voted in to do," Liberal councillor Leigh Colacino said.
The tenders are due to come before the council at its February 24 meeting, where it is expected staff will be in the position to recommend their preferred contractors.