Renovation and extension works that will see the modernisation and expansion of Carrick on Suir Town Hall have been approved.
Councillors held two special meetings to discuss the E2 million plan, and following two full and frank discussions they voted by five votes to three to ‘ok’ the plan, on Monday morning.
Councillors had first met to discuss the matter last Wednesday, but that meeting was adjourned to this week.
When the vote was called five councillors were in favour of the plan: Cllrs Croke, Dunne, Fitzgerald, O’Neill and Walsh. Three councillors voted against: Cllrs Cooney Sheehan, Henzey and O’Loughlin. Cllr Burke was not present on Monday.
A special meeting of Carrick on Suir Town Council was held on Wednesday, August 10, to consider the Town Manager’s report on the proposals, under the Planning and Development Regulations. Mayor Patsy Fitzgerald welcomed all in attendance including a member of the public William Galvin who resides in a house adjacent to the Town Hall and who during the public consultation process had made a submission about the redevelopment.
Town Manager Pat Slattery distributed his report to the elected members, which began by detailing matters discussed at a workshop on the subject, in July. At that workshop, some of the elected members expressed concern about the level of expenditure being invested during the current economic climate and requested that the Town Council should consider a down-graded version of the proposed project in order to reduce the overall costs and, to still meet the statutory requirements under the Disability Act.
A reduced scheme would include a single storey extension of the main building to provide level access off the street and to provide accessible facilities on the ground floor; disabled toilets; a lift to the upper floors of the Town Hall and renovation of the existing building.
The scaled back scheme was referred to the Council’s architects for consideration and comment. Having considered the proposal, the architects confirmed that such a proposal could be constructed and would achieve a cost saving in the region of E600,000 leaving a net cost to the Council of approximately E1,200,000.
However the Manager’s report stated that as this reduced scheme would not provide sufficient additional offices to meet the County Council’s needs, the County Council would not be willing to co-fund the project and therefore the entire cost of approximately €E1,200,000 would need to be carried by the Town Council.
Alternatively, the Manager’s Report continued, if the original scheme was allowed to proceed as designed, the County Council would be willing to fund 40% of the project leaving the net cost of the building to approximatelyE1,100,000.
Having discussed the matter with the Finance Section of the County Council, the manager confirmed that the County Council would be willing to consider increasing their proportion to higher than 40% of the cost subject to the number of county council staff that could be accommodated following the completion of the project.
Mr Slattery said that given the comprehensive nature of the proposals and the benefit of the development to Carrick on Suir, he felt that to proceed with the scheme as outlined represents
excellent value for money.
Town Clerk Michael O’Brien said there was a number of submissions made by the public and the Council did its utmost to accommodate them.
South Tipperary County Council Planner Aidan Walsh explained the changes made as a result of the submissions and observations – two offices were removed from the top floor to address the overshadowing and windows changed to address the overlooking.
Most vociferous against the project were Cllrs. Pierce O’Loughlin and Sylvia Cooney Sheehan. Cllr. O’Loughlin, who earlier this year had proposed an alternative idea to purchase the current VEC Comeragh College building and convert it to new Civic Offices, said the proposed project for the Town Hall in New Street should be binned. He spoke of the Government’s plan to amalgamate North and South Tipperary County Councils, which he said would mean the County Council not needing more office space in Carrick on Suir. He was also doubtful the Minister for the Environment would support the proposed project.
Cllr. Cooney Sheehan thought a better deal could have been achieved and she was not satisfied with the modifications made saying that the overshadowing has not been solved satisfactorily. She made the point that what Carrick on Suir needs urgently is more employment and ideas to attract tourists to the town. She added that the Town Council could be abolished in a few years time.
Cllr. Margaret Croke agreed that the present Town Hall needs a lot of improvement but she expressed her concern about the fears of the neighbours.
Cllr. Richie O’Neill thought the funding figures did not add up satisfactorily.
Cllr. Liam Walsh said the Town Hall has to be improved and the sum involved is not that huge.
Cllr. Martin Henzey hoped there would not be any hidden costs that will subsequently come to light.
Cllr. Sarah Dunne expressed concern about changing the plans and the County Council not supporting the new plans.
Town Engineer Eoin Powell made the point that the redevelopment would strengthen the boundary wall at the Northern side, which currently is in bad condition. At this juncture the Mayor adjourned the meeting for five minutes to speak to Mr. Galvin and on resuming it was agreed to reconvene the meeting on Monday.