A $10.9 million tender for redevelopment of the West Gippsland Arts Centre has been approved by Baw Baw Shire.
Community members cheered councillors when they voted five to three to accept the tender.
Council agreed to proceed with the project despite not securing federal government funding.
Financials for the project show the total cost will be $13.4 million which includes $4 million to be borrowed by council, $4 million from the state government and $1.15 million from council’s development contribution program.
Council has already spent almost $820,000 on the project so far, leaving a $3 million deficit that, failing federal funds, will be funded by council in the next two budgets – taking the total ratepayers’ commitment to $9.4 million.
Any funds raised through local fundraising will lessen the burden on council.
The redevelopment will increase the arts centre’s seating capacity from 510 to 760 patrons.
It also will improve accessibility with a new lift connecting all four building levels; multiple access points to the auditorium and improved wheelchair access.
Auditorium and theatre upgrades as well as additional back of house facilities, expanded foyer and café are also part of the plans.
It is expected the arts centre will be closed until July next year. Staff will continue to be employed. Permanent staff will be redeployed within the current shire staff according to skills.
Nine community members addressed council on the arts centre redevelopment with eight of the speakers calling on council to award the tender and support the project.