MidCoast Council has decided to proceed to the design and construction phase of its office centralisation project.
The next step in the move to the former Masters site, at Biripi Way, was decided at council's meeting on Wednesday afternoon, April 10.
A further independent cost benefit analysis on the option of centralising MidCoast Council's administrative functions to Biripi Way in Taree was presented to councillors at the meeting.
Council said the analysis, undertaken by the Balmoral Group, indicated a single site option would provide benefits outweighing the costs of the project over a 20 year period, when compared to a campus or multi-site model.
Initial cost of the building fit-out, the capital replacement and building operating costs over a 20 year period was considered. This was compared to the same costs associated with a campus model over the same period.
With the exception of Cr Peter Epov, councillors were unanimous in their decision to move to the design and construction phase. Cr Jan McWilliams was on holidays.
Solicitor John Kennwell from Stacks attended the meeting and 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.
Also speaking in favour of the project, Taree accountant and GPB Partners business owner, Graham Brown OAM 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.
"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."
Nineteen-year-old Forster resident Kirsty 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.
A detailed design and cost plan will now be developed. It will go back to councillors for review and approval before a commitment is made to any construction works.
The office centralisation model would see the consolidation of administrative staff from three offices - two in Forster and one in Taree - to the Biripi Way location. Offices in Gloucester, Stroud and Tea Gardens will continue to operate and are not impacted by the plans.
Council has also made a commitment to providing a customer service point in Forster.