Battle lines drawn in new City Hub debate

Debate over the future of the Shellharbour City Hub project is expected to dominate when Shellharbour City Council meets for the first time in 2014 on Tuesday night.

The hub will be high on council's agenda over the next six months, with August 2014 long identified as the key date. That's when the council is due to award a construction contract for the $53.9 million project.

Over the past 18 months, the hub has progressed past key milestones with the support of the council's three Labor councillors and independent Helen Stewart, with Deputy Mayor and ex-Liberal Paul Rankin voting in support at times. However, Cr Stewart and Cr Rankin have both said they will reserve their final decision until the outcome of asset sales is known.

Former mayor Kellie Marsh and Cr Peter Moran oppose the project.

The sale of assets, including Lamerton House, is expected to generate $35 million for the project, with $8.8 million already collected from developer levies. The remaining $10.1 million required will be covered by a loan.

Council general manager Michael Willis said for a construction contract to be awarded in August there had to be certainty regarding the sale of assets and he was confident the council would achieve this.

On Tuesday night a notice of motion from Cr Kellie Marsh calling for a poll of residents to gauge community opinion on the hub project will be discussed after it failed to get a hearing at the December meeting, which extended to its compulsory closing time of 10.30pm.

This motion will be countered by a four-page notice of motion from Cr John Murray, which he said outlined the project's history and the council's capacity to fund the $53.9 million required for it.

Cr Murray said he was "dismayed and frustrated" by the debate over the hub, which he said had got away from the facts and been replaced with "half truths and myths".

Tomorrow at 2pm, a public meeting to discuss the hub will be held at the Oak Flats Neighbourhood Centre, hosted by Cr Marsh and Cr Moran.

Cr Moran said the fact Warilla Library was being considered for sale showed there were flaws in the hub's financial case and he expressed concern at the social costs of stripping services from the suburbs and relocating them to a central location in the city centre's hub.

Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba  with architects at the site of the proposed hub last year.

Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba with architects at the site of the proposed hub last year.


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