Wurlitzer Fiasco

organThe restoration of the Wurlitzer Organ from the Civic Centre into The Concourse has become a fiasco.

Read the full report below:

Read August 2015 decision by Willoughby Council

Purpose of Report
To provide Council with an update on the status of the Wurlitzer Organ.

Since the handover of The Concourse in July 2011, Councils appointed Contractor Pipe Organ Restorations (POR) have been carrying-out the refurbishment and reinstallation of the Wurlitzer organ that was decommissioned and removed from the Civic Centre prior to its demolition in January 2009. Mr John Andrews of organ consultancy Tonal Resources was appointed in 2006 to project manage all aspects of refurbishment and reinstallation of the organ on Councils behalf.

In November 2012 it was reported to The Corporate and Transport Committee that Mr Mark Fisher from (POR) was having difficulties completing his contract owing to his ill health. Due to an apparent lack of suitably qualified and experienced contractors in the field of organ restoration Council responded to the advice of Mr John Andrews (TR) and opted to utilise the services of Tonal Resources to assist with completing the installation of the instrument.

As previously reported, there is $22,000 remaining within the budget to complete this project. In accordance with the recommendations of the previous report this amount was retained as security until the installation reached Practical Completion.

Current Situation
Council has recently been advised by Mr Fisher from POR that due to his deteriorating health he is unable to continue working on the installation of the instrument and has abdicated his involvement in the project.
Upon receipt of the advice from Mr Fisher, Mr Andrews (TR) was requested to provide an update on the current status of the installation, costs to completion and advice in relation to options that may be available to Council to bring the project to completion.

Mr Andrews has advised that he is able to second specialist staff from Brisbane, which would be able to complete the project within six months. In addition, he advised that the costs to bring the project to completion are in the order of $97,840.

This figure is reflective of the time that has elapsed since the work was initially priced by POR in 2007, the cost of employing additional labour and the possibility that the initial tender was priced to meet the projects budget allocation and enable the organ to be maintained as a community asset; a notion that has been suggested by Mr Andrews.

Whilst the previous advice in relation to the lack of skilled labour within the organ restoration field is acknowledged, it would be prudent to publicly advertised seeking quotations in accordance with Council policy for works of this value. In addition, this course of action to avoid any conflict of interest involving Mr Andrews in his current position as Councils

A call for tender would require the development of a scope of works, which Mr Andrews is best placed to provide. This would also provide a continuation of project knowledge, in addition to providing an accurate basis for proponents to price the works.

Due to ill health the incumbent contractor is unable to progress the reinstallation of the Wurlitzer organ into the Concert Hall within The Concourse. Councils Consultant Mr John Andrews has advised that the costs to bring the project to completion are in the order of $97,840. Given the value of the works and would avoid a potential conflict of interest, it is advised that Council should publicly advertise the remaining works.

1. Council’s consultant Tonal Resources prepare a scope of works documenting the requirements to bring the project to completion.
2. Council publicly advertise for contractors to complete the installation of the Wurlitzer organ within the Concert Hall at The Concourse.
3. A further report be brought back to Council advising as to the outcome of the tender process.


2 thoughts on “Wurlitzer Fiasco

  1. In August 2015 Willoughby Council voted to stop spending money trying to fix the organ and to have it installed in The Concourse. There has not been an announcement as to what will now happen to the disassembled components of the organ.

  2. I was wondering if I may make a suggestion that you could pass on to the council for consideration. I have heard of a wonderful museum in St Peters in Sydney that is called Fairground Follies Antique Mechanical Music Museum. Would Willoughby council be willing to donate the Wurlitzer to such a museum to keep it intact?

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