MidCoast Council has addressed questions raised by the community concerning its planned move to Taree.
Following council’s reassurance ratepayers would not have to fund the move, members of the Great Lakes community voiced their concerns on the Advocate’s Facebook page.
Marc Randall suggested council was borrowing money to fund projects the community did not want.
“Our council did nothing to add simple shade sails to its children’s play areas until it got a government grant yet it can borrow millions at the drop of a hat for Masters,” he wrote.
A spokesperson from council explains when council borrows money it needs to be able to demonstrate a way in which those funds are able to be repaid.
“The loans for this project will be repaid by the leasing of the current administration buildings which means council has a clearly identified source of funds to repay the loan,” the spokesperson said.
“It is responsible financial management to finance assets which have a long life such as buildings through loans.
“Doing this spreads the cost of the asset over a longer period which is a more equitable way to fund projects.
“In this case the former Masters building is a modern building with a life of 50 years plus.
“We are proposing to borrow a portion of the fit out cost over a loan term of 20 years to more equitably spread this cost.”
Resident, Rhonda Keegan had another question in the same vein.
“If they are borrowing money to outfit the Masters building where is the money coming from to build the new bridge at Wingham and also replace the current pool?” she wrote.
“Council understands roads are a priority for our community and has committed $100 million to improving our roads over the next four years, to address the backlog of road repairs and maintenance in the region,” council’s spokesperson continued.
“As an organisation we need to ensure we address each of our responsibilities equally and the office relocation is required to deliver services more efficiently to our community.
“Funding for hospitals is a State Government responsibility, not a function of MidCoast Council.”
Josey Van queried how the present council buildings were devalued from 14 million to 4 million.
“How was that allowed to be happening? Anyone knows why council's (rate payers) real estate goes down while everything else goes up?” she asked.
Council’s spokesperson responded, saying the buildings hadn’t been devalued from $14 million to $4 million.
“This confusion has come from an initial valuation of the current council buildings ($14 million) and our financing strategy which indicates we are looking to make $4.8 million from the sale of assets,” the spokesperson said.
“The assets we are planning on selling are not the current council buildings, so we are talking about two different sets of figures for two different things.
“We are looking at selling commercial and land holdings. Our intent is to lease the current council administration buildings.
“We have had expert advice from leading property consultants so will be setting realistic lease figures.”
Ian Walton commented, saying he wondered if the staff that have to travel to Taree would be subsidised in any way with the relocation.
“This will be a real cost on travel expenses and extra time to get to their place of work,” he wrote.
Carol Prentice followed up this question asking how many jobs would be lost due to duplication or people have to resign due to the distance then will have to travel.
“The Local Government Award provides information for councils on a variety of allowances payable to employees, including a travel allowance,” council’s spokesperson responded.
“This allowance may be payable to approximately 70 MidCoast Council staff if their place of work is changed to Biripi Way.
“The approximate number of staff impacted and eligible for this allowance is roughly the same under both the single site and campus options.
“Under the campus option teams would be based at a common location, housed in either the existing Taree or Forster administration centres.
“This means that some staff in both the existing Taree and Forster administration centres would be required to change their place of work so that they are located with their team rather than have a team spread across various sites.
“This has been taken into account in the initial modelling done as part of the business case.
“Over time the number of staff eligible for the allowance under both the single site and campus options will decrease as new employees will not be eligible.”
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