Southern Skies Earth and Space Centre budget concerns worrying council

NOT JUSTIFIABLE: A concept design for the $5.9 million planetarium option
NOT JUSTIFIABLE: A concept design for the $5.9 million planetarium option

CONCERNS about the progression of the Southern Skies Earth and Space Centre have again led to a push to combine the facility with the museum project.

At Tuesday’s Orange City Council meeting, councillor Glenn Taylor said several planetarium committee members and advocates were “despondent” about cost blow-outs to build the project.

“I know we are looking to put the museum out to tender, but we haven’t done it yet and [the planetarium] can share toilets with the museum - surely it can be incorporated with the museum,” he said.

“We don’t need Taj Mahals but we can do something that will benefit the city incredibly.”

The council originally agreed in principle to contribute $1 million towards the project, based on a total cost of $2 million. 

Despite earlier suggestions to build the planetarium as part of the museum project, a consultant designed a separate building for a different location at the civic centre.

The 74-seat facility came with a $5.9 million price tag, which was later reduced to $4.7 million.

The consultant reported the cost could not be dropped unless the dome size was reduced as well as the seating capacity.

After the meeting, Cr Taylor said the high price tag could not be justified, but there seemed to be confusion between committee members and council staff about the scale of the project and believed there was support for a smaller building.

“I think council staff had the impression the committee wanted all the bells and whistles and in the committee, there was the perception that the council was forcing a larger facility on them,” he said.

“We’ve come too far to drop it now.”

At the meeting, general manager Garry Styles said reports were being prepared for two planetarium options worth $2.5 million and $4 million respectively, to be presented at a future briefing.

The Western Joint Regional Planning Panel has already approved plans for the museum without the planetarium and tenders close on September 15.

Councillors are due to consider the tenders on October 7 before the first sod is turned later in the month.


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