Lake Macquarie council CEO Morven Cameron has defended the refurbishment of the Speers Point administration centre and how the project has been communicated to ratepayers.
Ms Cameron said yesterday it had "not been put under the radar" and was a "stock-standard piece of business" that would help attract "high-quality" staff.
"All we've done is maintain the building since the 1970s," she said.
"Workplaces are very different [now].
"We have to have facilities for our workforce that recognise a modern way of working.
"If I don't build a workplace where younger generations want to come and work, in five or six years' time I won't be able to deliver the services that this community needs because I won't be able to get employees - they'll be looking to go and work in modern environments."
As reported Wednesday, the council has called for tenders to gut and refurbish three floors of workspace.
The renovation is considered an operational activity and has not been discussed in an open council meeting.
It was briefly listed in the 2020/21 budget which shows the council plans to spend $17.8 million on the project over the next three years.
It is also budgeting to spend $12 million on IT infrastructure and $2.7 million on computer workstations over the next four years.
But these costs were disputed in a staff memo to councillors yesterday, who were told they were "not related" to the refurbishment and would "be funded irrespective" of it going ahead.
Ms Cameron said the "entire cost of the refurbishment, including the IT, is included in the [$17.8 million] budget line for the project".
Stan Kiaos, a Boolaroo business owner, said the project had been "hidden from the community" and should have been "on the first page of the budget, not page 87".
"They claim to be transparent, but they're not," he said.
"This should be major news as far as the community is concerned.
"At the end of the day, we will be the one that is funding it so we really need to be alerted it's happening."
Asked why the project had not been promoted to the community, Ms Cameron said she preferred to promote projects after they had been delivered.
"You deliver and then say you've done it," she said.
The Herald approached mayor Kay Fraser and the 12 councillors yesterday for their thoughts on the project.
The mayor did not return calls and only two councillors were willing to comment.
Cr Jason Pauling (LIB) said a refurbishment was appropriate given the building's age and there was "no appetite whatsoever" of "building Taj Mahal somewhere else".
But he acknowledged a lack of transparency, saying there had been a "missed opportunity" to tell "a good news story" that the council was not "wasting money building something brand new with penthouses, but patching something up and making it more functional".
"Fair cop, we didn't flag [with] ratepayers we're going to refurb the building. From a transparency view, it could have been better," he said.
"But that admin building ... it's certainly due for a refurb, there's no doubt about that."
Cr Barney Langford (ALP) said he was "comfortable with the way things have gone" and the project was part of "ongoing maintenance or asset management".
Cr Adam Shultz directed the Herald's questions to the CEO and mayor.
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