What was supposed to be a simple two-minute presentation turned into a 25-minute debate when a petition against the shared library and children's health hub was received by councillors.
The petition was organised by Rosemary Michie, who gathered almost 1400 signatures against the proposed plans, and presented her petition to Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick on February 9.
The estimated cost of the joint project between the Rotorua Lakes Council and the Lakes District Health Board could be as high as $12.8 million, with the council budgeting $5.4 million to $8.8 million, based on cost estimates of the approved concept plan.
The health board has a budget for the project of just under $4 million, with the rest of the funding coming from other sources.
At a meeting of the council's strategy, policy and finance committee on Thursday, councillors pushed staff for more answers regarding the project and why the council did not deem it necessary to respond to the petitioners.
Councillor Charles Sturt said he thought the council should make a response. "It's a waste of time doing a petition. I think they need a whole-of-council response rather than just a mayoral response."
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said he had not seen the petition. "I'd like to see a bit of an analysis about the numbers," he said.
Mr Donaldson also asked when the refined costs and the commitment from the DHB would be presented to councillors and at what meeting.
The council's strategy and partnerships group manager Jean-Paul Gaston said a staff member who was part of the project team was in attendance when the petition was handed to the mayor.
"That staff member would be taking those concerns back to the project team for their consideration."
Talk then turned to the funding of the project and if the Lakes DHB had confirmed its funding in writing.
Council chief executive Geoff Williams said staff were not bringing it back to council unless there were any variations regarding cost. "Effectively the project is continuing and will be brought to conclusion within the project framework.
"We can bring back an analysis with regard to the material brought to the mayor," he said.
Councillor Rob Kent said the petition should have been presented to council, not to a council committee, and continued his questioning regarding possible costs for the project.
Mr Gaston said the final costings were for a full reconstruction and renovation of the library and earthquake proofing.
"The library is getting an enhancement with the $8.8 million," he said. "There seems to obviously be some ongoing discussion and debate about the nature of this project. I wonder whether it is worthwhile us at the next O&M (operations and monitoring) meeting to bring back to you a view of the project as a project update where we can present to you a breakdown of how the costs fall, how the fact that the DHB becomes effectively a tenant in the building and how that affects cost structures," Mr Williams said.
Mr Kent said he was happy with that proposal. But councillor Janet Wepa reminded her colleagues they had a guaranteed tenant in the DHB for 35 years.
"The ratepayer won't be paying the DHB part," she said. "We have always short-changed the library ... the reality is that it hasn't been given the level of care that it has needed. My understanding is that this project would make it a library we are all very proud of ... Which is why I have always strongly supported this exciting project."
The next operations and monitoring committee meeting is set for Wednesday, March 2, and is open to the public.