A strategy to finance the cost of consolidating MidCoast Council’s Taree and Forster administration centres to a single location will be considered by councillors at the next ordinary council meeting.
The strategy indicates the project, which will see 350 staff move to the former Masters site on Biripi Way, Taree will be paid for through cash reserves, property sales and loan borrowings.
If the meeting approves the financing and associated community engagement strategies, council will start a process of gaining feedback from the community on the impacts of the centralisation and the funding model proposed.
“The financing strategy is based on a total project cost of $20 million,” Director of Corporate and Business Systems, Steve Embry explains in a report to be presented to the October Council meeting.
“While the estimate in the project cost plan is $18 million, and this estimate includes significant contingency, the financing strategy is based on $20 million to provide an additional buffer. If costs come in at the estimated $18 million, loan borrowings would be reduced.”
Mr Embry outlined the $20 million would be made up from $7.2 million from cash reserves (funds saved from the merger), $4.8 million from the sale of property assets, and $8 million in loans.
Loans would be repaid by funds gained from leasing current administration buildings.
“The financing strategy makes it clear there will be no special rate variation required for this project, and we will not be touching any operational funds so things such as the $100 million road program will continue to be delivered to our community as planned.”
Mr Embry also indicated the centralisation of administrative functions to the new site would not impact on customer service arrangements for the community.
“Currently customer service centres are provided at Taree, Forster, Gloucester, Tea Gardens and Stroud. This level of service would continue with the relocation to Biripi Way.
“The Taree Customer Service Centre would be relocated to Biripi Way and the Forster Customer Service Centre would be provided at the new Civic Precinct in Lake Street Forster which is scheduled for occupation in September 2020.“
Council purchased the former Masters site on Biripi Way in December last year. Following the purchase, a gateway process was implemented to ensure councillors would have a range of opportunities to review the findings of investigations and determine whether to proceed with the project.
The adoption of the financing strategy is the next gateway decision point for council.
The outcome of the engagement with the community, and the outcome of a peer review currently underway on the financing strategy, will be reported back to councillors before a decision is made to proceed to the more detailed design phase of the project.
Council’s next meeting will be held at 2pm on Wednesday October 31 at the Taree Administration Centre.
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