A City of Armadale committee has unanimously agreed to further negotiations with property giant Stockland in the hopes of securing a better deal for the new Harrisdale library development.
For several years, the city has been considering potential sites to open a 1000-square-metre library for the community of Harrisdale by 2021, as detailed in its Corporate Business Plan 2019-2024.
The plan outlines the city’s intention to commit $2.5m to get the project underway and ongoing annual costs of $1.3m.
In October last year, the council resolved to enter into negotiation with Stockland to secure a site and commercial terms for the library – the draft of which was presented to the city’s Community Services Committee on Tuesday.
But members voted against the officer’s recommendation to endorse the lease terms and construction of a library and instead requested that further negotiations be undertaken.
The move was prompted by councillor Grant Nixon, who said the agreement involved a significant financial investment that should be investigated in light of recent changes to market conditions.
“In the last six months alone, we’ve seen tremendous changes in our city,” he said.
“I acknowledge that Stockland locking up almost all of the land in Harrisdale has left us with a difficult decision because we’ll have nowhere else to go.
“This would be the fifth library in the city and I believe spending $2.5m on the fit out of someone else’s building is not ideal – it’s a lot of money and I think that warrants further investigation in these economic conditions.”
But deputy mayor Carole Frost stressed that the city had promised the community a library and argued that the city’s current facilities cost the same.
“We have made promises to the communities of Harrisdale and Piara Waters that there would be a library,” she said.
“There is a huge need for a community centre – if that’s a library, so be it.
“Yes, it will cost $16m over 10 years, but all of our other libraries are costing that and we knew about the costs associated with this project.
“If we’re only going to defer for a month, I’m OK with that, but I do not want to see the city go back on this plan.”
Mayor Ruth Butterfield echoed councillor Nixon’s sentiments and said she believed the city should be playing hardball on behalf of ratepayers to ensure it got the best deal.
“On behalf of the ratepayers, I think we should be playing hardball back,” she said.
“If it delays the project, that would be an issue, but that could be more acceptable to our community than the $16m price tag this has on it at the moment.
“I suggest we try to negotiate a better deal.”
A further report is expected to be presented to the committee during its October meeting.