THE BAW Baw Shire Council will close its Smith Street offices and move 85 staff to the former Buln Buln Shire offices in Drouin in a bid to cut costs and improve cross-directorate communication.
Above: click play to listen to The Warragul Citizen's interview with Baw Baw CEO Helen Anstis and deputy mayor Debbie Brown.
Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion which will see the total number of staff in Drouin rise to 115 as part of a estimated $2.5-2.7 million redevelopment at last night’s meeting.
From mid-2015 the Community Assets, Community Services and Growth and Economic Development directorates will move from Smith Street to Drouin, and the Warragul Customer Service Centre will be relocated to Civic Place.
The council has been leasing the Smith Street offices at a cost of $250,000 per annum and expects to recoup renovation costs within seven years.
The leased Family and Children’s Services centre at William Square will also be closed and staff moved to a council-owned building on Normanby Street by 1 July this year.
Baw Baw CEO Helen Anstis told The Warragul Citizen changes to office locations had been planned for years but staff had not been consulted about yesterday’s decision.
“The council’s been looking at staff accommodation over many council years and council terms, this is something this council’s had a very good look at,” Ms Anstis said.
“This council has asked us to… look at all the properties that we lease from others or people are leasing from us to make sure that they are commercial, that they are providing a community benefit and that we’re not utilising funds inappropriately.
“All of this work has been coming on stream for well over 12 months and it’s starting to be enacted by this council now.
“There’s been no consultation with the staff.
“There have been many questions asked by staff, ‘when could we be accommodated together,’ [but] as far as this particular variation and determination, there hasn’t been a lot of communication with staff.”
Poll at end of article: ‘Do you support Baw Baw closing its Smith Street offices?’
Ms Anstis said the affected staff had been informed of the move yesterday, hours before councillors made their decision on the plan.
“I had a meeting with my staff this (Wednesday) morning and I gave them an indication that there was a report going to staff this evening,” Ms Anstis said.
Although yet to be put to tender, Ms Anstis said the anticipated cost of the move would be over $2 million.
“Our quantity surveyor information would suggest it’s something in the order of $2.5 to 2.7 million, but that also includes the re-roofing of the Drouin offices which was already scheduled to be done as well.”
Deputy mayor Debbie Brown said councillors hoped the move would lead to improved cross-directorate communication.
“Apart form the financial aspects of this, it’s also about being able to make sure all of the staff have… accommodation that suits what they’re trying to do, and they’re not fragmented like they are at the moment because I think it’s vital if you’re going to work together you need to be together to work,” Cr Brown said.
“It doesn’t mean we’re pulling out of Warragul, we’ve still got parts of the directorate [here], and I think we’re making better efficiencies.
“It’s making sure that they’re (staff) all able to work together. We can only do that if we make some good decisions and this I believe is a good one.”
Mayor Murray Cook was not present at the meeting but has been quoted speaking in support of the move in council media releases.
Ms Anstis said she expected the reaction to the move from staff and the community would “unfold over the next few days.”
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