Carrick-on-Suir Town Council has decided not to put aside any funding in its budget this year for the refurbishment and extension of the Town Hall due to the uncertainty over Carrick’s future as a centre of local government.
The Council has saved more than E600,000 over the past number of years towards the E2.9m upgrade of its headquarters on New Street to make the 19th century building more accessible to people with disabilities and to create more space and facilities for staff and customers.
The Council allocated E50,000 towards the project in its 2012 budget.
But for 2013, the local authority has decided not to allocate any funds arising from the Government decision last year that town councils, including Carrick TC, are to be abolished in 2014 as part of radical local government reforms.
Town Clerk Michael O’Brien informed the Town Council’s recent annual Budget meeting of management’s decision not to set aside any money this year towards the project due to the “complete uncertainty” about what was happening with town councils.
The report of the Boundary Committee that is redrawing local authority areas around the country would be central to what local government will be based in Carrick-on-Suir in the future, he pointed out. That report is due to be published in May.
Mr O’Brien indicated the abolition of Carrick Town Council didn’t mean the Town Hall refurbishment wouldn’t go ahead.
If there continued to be a local government office in Carrick-on-Suir, there would have to be significant investment in the Town Hall, he told councillors. The Town Hall was a public building and they were legally obliged to have it accessible to people with disabilities by the end of 2015.
The Town Clerk was responding to Fianna Fail Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan, who asked what the Council intended to do with the money it has saved for the Town Hall refurbishment.
He said the Town Council would continue to control the money it had set aside for the Town Hall project until the local authority was abolished. He believed if the refurbishment went ahead it would be legitimate for that money to be ring fenced for the project.
The Council’s plans to extend and upgrade the Town Hall were the subject of a heated debate at the Town Council’s 2012 annual budget meeting just over a year ago when Cllr Cooney-Sheehan and Independent Cllr Pierce O’Loughlin objected to the Council putting aside the E50,000 in its 2012 budget for the project.
They called for the project to be scaled back and confined to just making the Town Hall more accessible for people with disabilities in view of the harsh economic climate. Other councillors, however, supported the project while Town Manager Pat Slattery warned that Carrick-on-Suir’s local government affairs could easily be run from Clonmel and this could happen if the Town Council didn’t maintain a strong position in Carrick-on-Suir by upgrading the Town Hall, which wasn’t “fit for purpose” in its current state.
And Mr Slattery claimed at the same meeting the Town Hall extension would provide accommodation for about 25 extra public servants, which would strengthen Carrick-on-Suir’s as a centre of local government.
The Town Hall revamp, which received planning permission in August 2011, includes a n extension to the side and rear of the Town Hall and changes to the internal layout of the existing building.
It’s proposed to develop a new entrance to the rear of the Town Hall and a new civic space on the ground floor where local authority and community events can be hosted.
Several residents living close to the Town Hall on New Street objected to the scale and height of the extension when planning permission was being sought for the project.