Merger not best option

By UTE SCHULENBERG

BELLINGEN Shire mayor Mark Troy has described as "the worst case scenario" the suggestion that ministerial rejection of the council's proposed request for a special rate variation could result in a possible shire amalgamation.

"This would absolutely be the last thing residents and ratepayers of this shire would want," Cr Troy said.

"There would be massive objections from the community."

On Tuesday the council voted in favour of applying for the variation (a 5.9 per cent increase) as a means to fund the vital upgrade of its works depot at Raleigh.

"The council recognises that the Raleigh Depot is neither safe or functional in a number of areas and we are obliged to do something about it.

"The council adopted the most feasible option and is now working towards meeting the March 31 deadline, when submissions (requesting rate variations) to the minister of local government are due.

"We are developing a public presentation so we can get out there and consult with the community."

The proposed funding strategy for the recommended option (5), which would reuse some parts of the facility, rebuild others and result in no forced redundancies, is to borrow $3 million.

This would be paid back over 20 years via the extra rate income.

"The increase equates to an extra $50 per annum on the general domestic rates," Cr Troy said.

"By spreading the loan over 20 years future ratepayers will also contribute to the cost.

"Clearly we need to maintain a works depot in the shire and this upgrade is vital."

He said if the current strategy to fund the upgrade failed, then the council would have to go 'back to the drawing board'.



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