The Lismore City Council will be asking the federal government for $2.85 million towards a new regional art gallery, and $7 million for an upgrade of the South Lismore sewerage treatment plant.
A majority of Lismore councillors this week backed staff recommendations to again put forward the projects despite being rejected in the first round of the National Stronger Region’s Fund.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily that the two projects were both important to the future growth of the city.
‘In this round we can apply for two projects without ranking them,’ she said.
‘The maximum available is 10 million so we’re applying for $2.85 million for the art gallery, and $7 million for the treatment plant upgrade.
Cr Dowell said the proposed cost of the gallery was $5.8 million while the treatment plant upgrade would be closer to $20 million ‘but $7 million would help’.
Not all councillors agreed with the art gallery application, with Crs Greg Bennett, Graeme Meineke and Mathew Schiebel voting against.
Cr Bennett had argued that the council could not afford the art gallery, as the council would have to borrow an additional $2.263 million to fund its share of the project.
‘This will result in a hit to the budget of $165,500 per year for the next 20 years,’ he said.
‘Add this to the losses occurring at the current gallery and the total loss per year is approaching $1 million.’
But Cr Dowell responded to the criticism saying ‘this isn’t to do with rate rises this is to do with two projects we need to do, and to get a federal government grant towards them would be really helpful’.
‘In the last round (of the national Stronger Region’s Fund) there were no projects funded in the Page electorate.
‘We’re hoping that something north of Nambucca might get a guernsey this time,’ she said.
Meanwhile, the council also voted to work with the Bangalow-based firm, Dominic Findley Jones Architects.
‘He did the work on the refurbished city hall and did a great job,’ Cr Dowell said.
For the art gallery project, the firm was among three shortlisted to develop plans for a refurbished C Block on the Conservatorium site in Keen Street.
‘We declined to accept any tender but we resolved to work with him as the preferred architect to develop the plans a little more until we know the outcome of the funding application.
Cr Dowell said both projects had been in the pipeline for many years.
‘We’ve got an art gallery but it just doesn’t meet the brief for a regional gallery,’ she said.
The treatment plant upgrade is considered instrumental for the future growth of the city.
The federal government is expected to announce the successful projects in December.