Cost blow-out brings Earth and Space Centre project back down to earth

BUDGET SKYROCKETS: The Southern Skies planetarium could be scaled down due to costs, but councillor Chris Gryllis (right), and Orange Planetarium president Rod Somerville believe there will be a positive outcome. Photo: JUDE KEOGH               0306planet4

BUDGET SKYROCKETS: The Southern Skies planetarium could be scaled down due to costs, but councillor Chris Gryllis (right), and Orange Planetarium president Rod Somerville believe there will be a positive outcome. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0306planet4

THE Southern Skies Earth and Space Centre could be redesigned after projected costs blew out to more than twice initial estimates.

Orange City Council previously agreed in principle to contribute $1 million to build the planetarium, based on an estimated price tag of about $2 million.

However, detailed designs from Crone Partners indicated a 74-seat facility would cost $5.9 million, including $4.3 million for the build and $1.6 million for planetarium equipment and the associated fit-out.

Lowering parts of the roof not linked to the dome only managed to cut the overall budget to $4.7 million.

A report to councillors said a reduction in the dome size and seating capacity would be required to cut expenditure further.

Despite no commercial dealings with contractors to build the project, the matter will be moved to confidential briefings for councillors to consider whether they want to submit a development application for the current design or pursue a smaller-scale project.

Orange mayor John Davis said the options included finding more money or reducing the scale of the project.

“A project of this size presents some larger funding challenges and the council has now recognised it needs to wrestle with where the project can go from here,” he said.

MARCH, 2011: SKIES THE LIMIT FOR SPACE CENTRE

“Over the years, the best way of council members considering open-ended questions like this is in the context of a briefing session.”

He said recommendations would then be researched and drafted before debate and decisions took place in an open council meeting.

Long-time planetarium supporter and deputy mayor Chris Gryllis said the facility’s ability to meet schools’ needs would be one of the issues debated.

“That will be done in consultation with the astronomers and friends of the planetarium, who know what they’re talking about,” he said.

“I’m looking for the Rolls Royce version, but if we can’t get that, we’ll go for the Mercedes.

“I’m confident it will be a good outcome.”

danielle.cetinski@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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