Days after Riverina councils reached a peace agreement following a drawn-out legal proceedings over a multi-million dollar regional library dispute, new details have emerged.
In June 2022 Wagga City Council ended its 40-year partnership with the Riverina Regional Library service, prompting a lengthy dispute about how to distribute an estimated $5 million worth in assets.
These assets ranged from books, e-resources and accumulated reserve funds up to the RRL's previous mobile library prime mover.
In late January, the parties finally reached an agreement, and while Wagga mayor Dallas Tout said the figures of the settlement were confidential, they were mutually satisfactory.
"We were able to talk last week and we're able to have open discussions and come to an agreement and move forward," Cr Tout said.
He said the distribution of assets will be based on the contribution, but they are different ratios in different pools of assets.
Mayor of one of the RRL's nine member councils Coolamon's Dave McCann recalled how the Wagga mayor "reached out towards the end of 2023 seeking a meeting with the RRL councils".
"[At that meeting] we were able to come to a satisfactory solution to all parties and we were able to shake hands and move forward," Cr McCann said.
Now, further details have emerged in a report to be presented at the council's fortnightly meeting on Monday.
In that report, Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson outlined the reasons for council's split from the RRL, saying it was not the first port of call.
Mr Thompson said it came out of a review to improve services for the community and a desire by council to provide more frequent and diverse mobile and outreach library services.
"We approached the regional library service through the executive and ultimately the advisory committee which consisted of all the participating councils and requested a change to our services," he said.
But he said while the initial request was based on the understanding the council would pay for the additional services it sought, the request was rejected by the advisory committee as other councils did not desire the provision of extra more diverse services.
In light of this, after crunching the numbers, Mr Thompson said council found it was affordable to operate these services independently from the RRL.
"[Council again] offered to join in the next regional library collaboration, but only on the basis it paid $830,000 for services like purchasing and cataloguing" that the council would duplicate in our stand alone model, however this too was rejected, leading to the split.
In August 2022, the council entered arbitration with the remaining Riverina councils on the RRL over what portion of these assets should go to Wagga City Council and what portion should go to the remainder local government bodies.
In September 2023 a partial award was handed down by the arbritrator, who found a further round of arbitration would be required to resolve the dispute unless the parties were able to negotiate an agreed position on the division of assets.
After formal offers were made by both parties, the mayors and general managers of both Wagga City Council and the RRL member councils agreed to come together and find some middle ground - ultimately agreeing to split the difference between the two offers put by each party.
A joint media statement said both parties are "very pleased with the equitable outcome of negotiations and, more importantly that the RRL organisation can now move forward and continue to provide valuable library services to the region."
In his report to council's upcoming meeting, Thompson said the settlement also saw Wagga City Council agree to vary the lease of the RRL headquarters at 2 Galing Place to remove the council as tenant.
That will see the council pay the "outgoings as specifically identified in the lease...[and] stop paying for cleaning services [at the address] on June 30, 2024."
Mr Thompson said the asset distribution will also help repay some of the costs council has incurred in setting up its new library service.
"The legal costs [council has incurred] in the arbitration will also be paid from the assets, with the surplus funds [set] to be transferred to the Grant Co-Funding Reserve, for consideration during future councillor budget discussions."
On a more positive note, Mr Thompson also hailed the council's new independent mobile and outreach service as a "great success".
"[Council] has been able to increase the mobile and outreach services it provides by up to 400 per cent with more than 10 new locations - both villages and suburbs - and the service frequency has also been increased."
The RRL has been operating since 1978 and has 19 branch libraries plus a mobile library that services 21 remote and rural communities.