Moyne Shire Council has voted to spend $1 million over the next two financial years to hire extra staff as it battles a backlog of capital works projects.
In an initiative it has labelled the "Great Moyne Build", council has decided to dip into its surplus to bring in new workers to get through the paperwork.
Over the past few years Moyne Shire has received a number of state and federal capital works grants on top of its normal funding allocation, whilst COVID pushed a number of planned projects back. This has caused funding from one financial year to roll over into the following year, often more than doubling the normal capital works budget for the shire.
The 2022-23 capital works budget is $41 million, two and a half times the normal allocation, and 33 projects worth $9 million from the current financial year are being rolled over into the coming year.
The proposal to spend $500,000 in 2022-23 and again in 2023-24 would pay for two new full-time staff as well as specialist services to work through more difficult or specific projects.
But not all councillors approved of the initiative. Cr James Purcell, who has been the loudest critic of the continual rollover of capital works projects from year to year, was a notable objector.
"I personally would like to have more detail about what we could do with our current workforce," he said.
Cr Purcell said he wanted to know how much of the backlog could be dealt with by the existing staff and have an analysis of how much could then be done by any additional workers before council committed funding.
He also said the council had received an unusually high volume of grants in the past few years and that wouldn't last forever, so the council could end up running out of work for the new administrative staff.
"I support the concept and I don't think any of us want to have carry-over projects... but we're likely to see a drop off in funding, so we need to be really careful they don't have nothing to do at the end of this," he said.
"The report (presented to support the initiative) is just too light on detail. It's $1 million, it's one of our biggest spends ever."
Cr Purcell ended up in the minority, with the "Great Moyne Build" passing five votes to two, as Cr Jim Doukas joined Cr Purcell voting against the motion.
Mayor Ian Smith said he thought rate-payers would embrace the idea.
"I think the community want to see these projects delivered rather than sitting on the books for years, so to do that we need additional resources," Cr Smith said.
"Our in-house works teams do a fantastic job, but with such a huge increase in projects, they need a few more hands on deck to help. This budget allocation is a prudent use of resources that will deliver for the community."
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