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For Shorty, no return to tender

Saturday, 28th February, 2015

By Erica Visser

The defunct Shorty O’Neil Village will be either leased or auctioned off after councillors admitted the use of a tender process in the sale of the caravan park had cost ratepayers.

Council this week decided to develop an Expressions of Interest document for the sale of the site but it would also investigate whether leasing it was a more attractive option.

The war widows living in 12 units at the Gossan Street end of the village would remain in their homes with the title of the properties to be transferred to Legacy.

Councillors were anxious to avoid a tender process, where applicants were required to meet a set of criteria, following the rejection of the top bid in the sale of the Broken Hill Caravan Park during December 2013.

At the time the man behind a tender offering $1.4 million - $150,000 more than the winning bid - told the BDT he could not understand Council’s rationale.

Council’s General Manager, Therese Manns, had responded that Council was “not obliged to accept the highest tender”.

But Cr Jim Richards said yesterday that the loss of the top bid had left councillors “spooked” and determined not to let history repeat itself.

“What happened in tender was a bunch of criteria were set up, an independent panel was appointed and the winning tender was presented to councillors,” Cr Richards said.

“When Council got the tender back we had to either accept it or start the process all over again. The winning tender met all the criteria but they didn’t have the highest dollar value.

“The process was completely above board, but everyone’s probably a little spooked.”

Cr Algate went one step further with comments made at a meeting this week, labelling the way the sell-off was handled as “just wrong”.

“To do what we did, in my view, with the caravan park or with things like that is just wrong and I would hope we don’t do it again.

“And one way to prevent us from doing it again is not to go to tender for these particular types of things.

“I don’t want to see this Council or any future council go down the path of significant assets like Shorty O’Neil Village ... being sold for a figure that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than the highest bidder.”

Labor’s Cr Jim Nolan, who put forward the motion to investigate leasing arrangements, agreed that the tender process should be avoided if possible.

Council had previously asserted that the village would not be closed and sold off before its set date of March 2016, but it took just over a year for its 40 residents to move out.

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