It was by no means a marathon meeting, but debate on the proposal to centralise MidCoast Council administration offices from Foster, Taree and Gloucester to the one-time Masters building dragged past the three hour mark.
More than 400 ratepayers filled the Forster council chambers – and spilled out – for yesterday’s February monthly ordinary meeting to learn if MidCoast Council planned to continue with the project.
On several occasions mayor, David West had to remind the gallery to show respect and tolerance during what was at times an emotive and noisy meeting.
At the same time Cr West praised the meeting describing them as generous and patient.
The afternoon’s meeting, and earlier protest rally in front of council chambers, was always under the watchful of of four SNP security officers.
However, the outcome for the majority who attended the meeting it was a disappointing outcome, groundhog day.
Once again council will engage an independent company to undertake a cost comparison between a single site administration office and campus model.
The new cost benefit analysis will investigate the latest costs and benefits associated with the purchase and fit-out of the proposed site at 2 Biripi Way, Taree
The exercise was undertaken in January 2018, and updated again last October.
Council is expected to present its findings to councillors at one of the two April monthly meetings, following the State election.
Councillor Peter Epov, who is opposed to the proposal, called for a complete review of the project.
“We have such amazing experience in our community and we should be drawing on this,” Cr Epov said.
“We should be listening to them.
“We have the opportunity today to set up a progressive council and not something from the past.”
Brad Christensen said the issues surrounding centralisation should have been discussed when the three former councils were forced to merge and suggested council attempt to get State government funding to help with the project.
“I do not understand why we want to continue to push this through when there is an opportunity to bring the community with us,” Cr Kathryn Bell said.
“We want to have a good record within the community and uphold what we promise.”
She said council gave a promise in November 2017 that councillors consult with the community.
No Move to Masters campaign spokesperson, Katrina Pearson viewed council’s decision as a good outcome.
“This is a partial win for the community,” Ms Pearson said.
“It has given us ground on the battle and we will win the war,” she said.
“We will fight on and we will fight even harder; the council has had their cages rattled.”