By Chris Thomson | posted on January 4, 2019
A $400,000 grant for a new surf-club house and a $500,000 contribution for a public space upgrade have been tentatively approved by Denmark council but not before a long debate about toilets.
In August, The Weekender revealed that stunning plans for a new clubhouse at Ocean Beach had been published on the website of Denmark-based PTX Architects.
At a council meeting on December 18, all Denmark councillors except Rob Whooley approved in principle a $400,000 grant to be borrowed from the State Treasury.
A $500,000 contribution toward an upgrade of public areas around the club was also approved in principle.
But it was not plain surfing for the funding, with Councillor Jan Lewis noting planned ablution facilities were smaller than public toilets and showers at the current clubhouse.
“My issue is that the public realm part of the building has no public ablutions,” she said.
Club spokesman Wayne Winchester said that with modern design, including putting hand basins outside, the ablution blocks did not have to be as big.
“It’s a really exciting project,” he said.
“It wasn’t just dreamt up overnight.
“It leverages up $4.7 million in [planned] Federal and State funding.”
Mr Winchester said the project budget was flexible enough to address any concerns the Shire might have about bathrooms.
But Cr Rob Whooley, formerly chief Shire engineer, questioned whether the cost of providing sewerage, water and power had been factored in.
With the meeting’s quorum questioned after three councillors simultaneously departed for a loo break after a marathon public question period when one ratepayer told of tourists defecating in scrub near the Harding River, toilets were the hot topic of the night.
Peering into the 48-strong gallery, 18 of whom were wearing surf club attire, Cr Whooley predicted his vote would be unpopular.
“A $5 million [project] for [a] $400,000 outlay would be absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“[But] when something sounds too good to be perhaps it is.
“Two male and two female toilets available to the public … is completely nuts.”
He said the Shire had a history of budget blow-outs, and he wanted to ensure costs were contained.
Supporting the grants with speeches were club members Billy Collin (16) who said he’d been a Denmark clubbie all his life, and Jorja Williams (17).
“I have never seen a place with such good relations between a wide range of ages,” Jorja said of her beloved club.
She said “as much as we love our now vintage club[house]” it was now inadequate and a new one was needed.
Cr Ian Osborne said the business case for the clubhouse was very strong, and the project was still at conceptual stage.
“Why are we fiddling around [at this early stage] saying they need to put in another men’s toilet?” he posed.
Cr Kingsley Gibson said the business case put to councillors lacked “robustness” but the clubhouse would be an “iconic building and a great asset for the whole community, undeniably so”.
Cr Mark Allen said the project would be the most important piece of infrastructure he was likely to be involved with as a Denmark councillor.
Cr Roger Seeney said the clubhouse would have “knock-on effects” for Denmark’s builders, shopkeeps and innkeeps.
“I can see a million dollars going back into this community from this project alone,” he added.
Image: PTX Architects