Preschool needs more funds

09th Feb 2021

Armidale Regional Council is faced with making some tough decisions in the coming weeks around the future of early childhood education in Guyra.  At a time when they are seeking to find an extra $3.5m to allow construction of a new purpose-built Early Childhood Learning Centre to go ahead, they are also faced with a hefty bill to keep the current centre operating.
Following an inspection of the current premises on December 8th, 2020 by an officer of the Early Childhood Education Directorate of the Department of Education, a non-compliance order was served on Council. It identified a number of breaches in terms of safety of the building,  
including termite damage,  lifting carpet, flaking paint and plaster inside the building as well as safety issues in the playground.
In response Council’s safety team inspected the building to conduct a risk assessment and a licensed builder carried out a structural assessment. A report to the December meeting of ARC estimated that the cost to make the building compliant would be around $150,000 to $200,000 and that if the issues were not dealt with the service would not be able to operate.
A number of modifications and improvements were carried out to address some of the more urgent concerns, allowing the centre to reopen in early January.  A further update was provided at the January meeting, reporting that the final bill for remediation works could be as high as $700,000.
ARC Director Businesses and Services Scot MacDonald told the Gazette that the Guyra Pre-School will not be closing and that a report is being prepared for Council outlining what compliance actions are required; what those costs are likely to be and how they will be funded.
Mr MacDonald said that the new building to house the Preschool remains in the 20/21 Operational Plan and a new site and DA lodgement noted by Council; this project is subject to the receipt of sufficient grant funding. He said that Council staff continue to manage this project according to grants, funds available and financial capacity of Council.
He also confirmed that the Financial Controller for ARC John Rayner has requested a review of the Business Case for a new building to house the Preschool