The Corowa-Urana council merger is back on the table as a live option.
The amalgamation agreed to by both shires before the NSW government added Lockhart into the mix late last year will be tested for community support over coming weeks.
But uncertainty for ratepayers will be extended as the hugely unpopular three-way merger of Corowa, Urana and Lockhart shires will stay its course with submissions being taken up until February 28.
The game-changer came late last week when Corowa Shire formally approached Local Government Minister Paul Toole with a five-point proposal for a merger with Urana.
If successful, Lockhart Shire could get its wish to remain standalone like the neighbouring Greater Hume Shire.
The latest twist almost guarantees local government elections due in September will be delayed.
Corowa mayor Paul Miegel said there was a glimmer of hope of a Urana merger only.
“We're being stifled by all the uncertainty,” he said.
“It is making it hard to do any long-term planning or strategic work because we just don't know what our future is going to look like.
“We've tried to be consistent all the way through proceedings.
“We will see where we go from here and hope commonsense will prevail in the end.”
The Corowa Shire case for a two-way merger includes the option being part of an independent panel's original recommendation, obvious community of interest, an ability to deliver better service levels than the proposed three-way merger, provide certainty for staff and community and clear support from both councils.
The three-way merger proposal has been met with universal condemnation across all three shires at public meetings and follow up presentations with government-appointed delegate Mike Eden in Corowa, Urana and Lockhart.
A Corowa-Urana merger would also kill off a push for Mulwala to defect from Corowa Shire.
Albury MLA Greg Aplin has also opposed the move which has put him at odds with his own party.
“It is encouraging because council and community were both requesting this as the outcome,” he said.
“The original Corowa-Urana proposal is the one I have supported.
“But as to what happens with Lockhart I cannot comment.”
Lockhart has had a long-standing wish to remain standalone.
The government is also considering a proposal for Jerilderie and Murrumbidgee shires to merge after an original move to split Jerilderie between Berrigan and Murrumbidgee.