Construction of the new Shepparton Art Museum is once again under close scrutiny with news that an extra $5.35 million could be added to the bill.
And once again critics of the new building have been quick to remind us that the project is an unnecessary expense.
Adding fuel to the anti-SAM fire is the recent demolishing of the Lakeside Cafe — the first, and highly visible, move towards creating a new look at Victoria Park Lake.
A News online poll asking people if they thought council should spend another $5.35 million on the new SAM had drawn a remarkable 350 responses by 6pm yesterday.
Most voters said it was a waste of ratepayers’ money.
It could be argued that online polls linked through Facebook draw hasty and ill-informed pictures of complex situations.
Nevertheless, an 88 per cent majority view that says the extra cost is a waste of ratepayers’ money must be considered.
It must also be countered with the facts.
Subject to a vote of approval at tonight’s meeting, Greater Shepparton City Council has said it would fund the extra expense through its cash reserves and would seek further support from government sources.
So while it is correct and diligent to question any expenditure of public money on new projects, it may not always fall to ratepayers to meet the expense.
There are also reasonable excuses for the extra expense.
Any budget more than a year old is subject to change.
Since the initial figure of $35 million was proposed in 2015, there have been changes to building regulations that have imposed unforseen expenses, particularly surrounding external cladding.
The News has long supported the new SAM project, which we believe will create a significantly positive addition to the landscape of Shepparton in physical and economic terms.
Even costing close to $40 million, the new building will bring a much-needed lift to our employment, prestige and cultural footprint.
Our courts, our hospital, our schools, our sports facilities and our glorious lake have all either already received or are in the process of receiving bold upgrades, paid for through a mix of local, federal and state government resources.
There is much to look forward to in this city and the new SAM will be one more jewel to make us all shine a little brighter.