POWER costs at the new Corowa Civic Centre have blown out, helped by the combination of a billing error and a failure to install modern, efficient airconditioning.
Rising electricity costs prompted councillors yesterday to order an investigation into using solar panels at the sprawling building originally built for the now defunct Corowa Bowling Club.
A new councillor, Paul Miegel, suggested the use of alternative energy, and two other new councillors, Joan Palmer and Francesco Bruinsma, will sit on the investigating committee.
The centre opened in February last year after a $3.5 million conversion that had been trimmed mainly because of the council’s failure to secure a federal grant.
General manager Bruce Corcoran said yesterday that Essential Energy had made a bill error four months ago, then levied a $25,000 “catch-up” charge.
But this wasn’t the only extra cost — the council’s estimate of likely electricity consumption had been based on figures supplied by the RSL Club when it operated the premises as a sports club.
Today the building is very different, employing council staff in several well-lit offices, together with a library, cafe and other offices.
In another move, the council agreed last year to subsidise the return of bowlers by paying their electricity bills.
Corporate services director Kristy Kay said the council had now budgeted for a $185,000 electricity bill this year.
As well as electricity costs, the council’s insurance on the centre was $19,600 more than budgeted for and the $30,000 airconditioning upgrade had to be funded.
All these extras were met by “raiding” an $80,000 office reserve.
Environmental services director Bob Parr said the former council had been well aware of the funding constraints in 2011-12 when the project was being developed.
As a result, the air-conditioning, dating from 1976, had been retained, although recently upgraded.
Mr Parr said the council knew at the time a more energy-efficient system would have been preferable but it didn’t have the money although lighting had to be installed to meet workplace guidelines.
Mayor Fred Longmire said the investigation would report to the council, but he was pleased the civic centre was popular with the community for events, and the library was so busy that it had to be extended.