MidCoast Council's plan to house its Forster and Taree office staff under the one roof has moved a step closer following yesterday's monthly April ordinary meeting.
An independent cost analysis undertaken by the Balmoral Group indicated a single site option provided benefits which outweighed the costs of the project over a 20 year period, compared to a campus or multi-site model.
With the exception of Cr Peter Epov, councillors were unanimous in their decision to move to the design and construction phase.
Jan McWilliams was on holidays.
The motion moved quickly through the agenda, with four speakers from the floor - two in favour and two against - sharing their thoughts on the project.
Speaking before the meeting, Darawank resident, Andy Keir said he was fundamentally opposed to the idea of the amalgamation.
"The area is too diverse; the needs of centres like Forster and Taree are so different," Mr Keir said.
The cost benefit analysis clearly showed combining the three offices into one delivers cost savings in the longer term.David West
"There is not a one size fits all."
Mr Keir believed a centralised model would 'lumber' the community with a generational debt.
"The cost keeps going up and up, from $20 million to $39 million.
"The whole thing now has become adversarial; the community and council should be working together."
Nineteen-year-old Forster resident Kristy Bell took time away from work to learn more about the project.
"I think what is happening is wrong," she said.
"It is a waste of money and not beneficial."
Tinonee resident, Terry Stanton questioned the financial costs associated with the project.
"It is clear that Balmoral relied on figures provided by council and they were not asked to investigate the accuracy of those figures," Mr Stanton said.
He said the report disclosed the cost to move was just under $40 million, a figure put to council earlier this year by the a group of residents opposed to the move.
You, Mr mayor told me in an email that if costs were near or over $30 million would would vote against it, he said.
"Commonsense is what is required."
Speaking in favour of the project, Taree accountant, Graham Brown believed the move was not about money but efficiency.
"This comes about when people can come across each other in the hall instead of writing emails," Mr Brown said.
That was not a possible with a campus or multi-site model, he said.
"Trying to get with people in council is becoming more and more difficult; you have to make multiple meetings to get people in the one spot."
Solicitor, John Kennwell from Stacks said the move would be advantageous for local business operators, while at the same time providing more efficient business to the entire community.
He also said the site was more centrally located for Gloucester, Manning Valley and Great Lakes.
Now the project has moved into the next phase a detailed design and cost plan will be developed before being returned to councillors for review and approval before a commitment is made to any construction works.
"The cost benefit analysis clearly showed combining the three offices into one delivers cost savings in the longer term," mayor, Cr David West said.
Offices in Gloucester, Stroud and Tea Gardens will continue to operate and are not impacted by the plans.
Council also has made a commitment to provide a customer service point in Forster.
For a copy of the report and cost benefit analysis visit the MidCoast Council website.