The dilapidated state of the Grafton Pool facade which was torched in December 2008.
The dilapidated state of the Grafton Pool facade which was torched in December 2008.

Pool rebuild 'disgrace': expert

A WELL-KNOWN Grafton architect has blasted Clarence Valley Council’s administration, saying ‘just about every rule in the Australian Standard for Tendering has been broken’ during the tendering process for the design of the Grafton Pool entry building.

As surveyors peg out the concrete slab that will become the entry to the Grafton Aquatic Centre this week, 14 months after the arson attack which destroyed the buildings, questions have been raised about the process which has allowed the council to project manage the $920,000 redevelopment and avoid public tendering.

In correspondence obtained by The Daily Examiner, Richard Van Dorp, architect for many of Grafton’s new buildings for more than a decade, states:

Council’s decision to use a consulting engineer to design the buildings was akin to ‘going to the butcher to have heart surgery, the result isn’t likely to be good’.

Read full copies of the correspondence between Mr Van Dorp, Mr Donges and Clarence Valley councillors.

The current design (above) was proof of this and was ‘a mockery of council’s standards when vast amounts of concern and energy are spent on conserving the older buildings in town ... and then allows an engineer to ruin a very important item of infrastructure, if not a heritage item’.

His concern about the lowering of the practice standards under the present council’s administration – especially the standards of tendering of projects and the quality of standards being required for public infrastructure.

Mr Van Dorp’s acerbic letter was sent to all Clarence Valley councillors after he had been approached by a council officer in March last year and asked if he would ‘tender’ for the design of the project.

Mr Van Dorp said he received assurances from the council officer that ‘only architects’ would be involved in the tender process, only to find out some time later the design had been awarded to council’s consultant engineer.

In further correspondence council denied asking for Mr Van Dorp for a tender, rather an expression of interest (EOI) and council’s deputy general manager Rob Donges admitted it was his decision to counteract the officer’s original advice that only architects were being approached.

Mr Donges went on to defend council’s actions, saying that because council had called for an EOI rather than a full-blown tender, the normal procedures, as laid down in the Local Government Regulations and the Australian Standards for Tendering, did not apply.

Mr Donges said the main reason it included the structural engineer in the EOI process was ‘the major design challenges were structural rather than architectural’.

“The obligation to our insurance company was to replace the previous building, not create a new design,” the civil and corporate manager said.

“To this end, the footprint of building was set and the central front façade was retained. I am informed that the main challenges are slab and roof design and that internal layout only needed to take into account changes required by the manager and the swim club.

“As a result of the initial concept plan which closely followed what had previously existed, our insurance company has agreed to pay up to an amount which exceeds the value for which the building was insured ($600,000).”

Mr Donges further justified his appointment of engineering consultant Steve McElroy with cost comparisons outlining the overall cost of architecture and engineering would be about $40,000 with Mr McElroy – $22,900 under Mr Van Dorp’s estimates.

“The battles that architects have waged against building designers and engineers stealing jobs that should be rightfully gifted only to architects is endless ... Mr McElroy is working on an hourly rate and to date has completed architectural, slab structural and hydraulic plans at a cost of $25k. It is likely his total costs will be about $40k.”

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