Lawyer engaged to fight City of Fremantle splurge

The present administration building.
The present administration building.

A GROUP of Fremantle residents have taken their fight against the multi-million dollar council chamber redevelopment to high-profile lawyer John Hammond.

The Fremantle Residents and Ratepayers Association has asked Mr Hammond to investigate the $45 million plan for a new civic building, which will include new administration offices and a public library, saying repeated queries to the City of Fremantle about the financial arrangements have been “stonewalled by the City at every opportunity”.

Mr Hammond said he had been asked to examine the transactions surrounding the new council offices.

“The motivating factor behind the association retaining my services is the expenditure of $50 million on new council offices for the City of Fremantle,” he said.

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“Whilst the City’s footpaths, roads, reserves and facilities for seniors are neglected, the City has chosen to spend this massive amount of money on itself.

“The $50 million will leave the City cash strapped and require it to sell off its landholdings.”

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt said they envisaged the Kings Square Project as a whole would be a catalyst for positive economic growth.

“We dealt in detail with some concerns raised by a few residents last year regarding the business plan and financials,” he said.

“The State Government also reviewed our business plan last year and found no issues, so we’re now looking forward to getting on with the job of transforming the heart of Fremantle for everyone to enjoy.”

However, FRRA spokeswoman Claudia Green said the group continued to doubt the City’s claim that selling $30 million of assets would bring in $220 million of investment in the area and that they wanted proof of the numbers. “Not one councillor can answer or explain the financial arrangements behind it, that involve the sale of income producing assets for $29 million valued at $50 million, the borrowing of millions of dollars but still leaving a shortfall of $8-16 million to fund council offices that four years ago was going to cost $45 million but now may be as high as $54 million but will offer no return to the ratepayer,” she said.

“The council’s long-term strategic plans have not identified the need for this project, it has made no longer term provisions to fund this project and the financial analysis contained in the Business Plan is fundamentally flawed.

“John Hammond’s acceptance to advise adds value and credibility to our concerns about the financial arrangements.”