Council seek regional fund to repair local roads

Sian Moloughney

Sian Moloughney

The ‘roads emergency’ in South Tipperary has prompted council officials to ask for permission to spend regional roads money on the potholed county and local roads.

At Monday’s meeting of the County Council it was proposed a deputation be sent to Minster Leo Varadker asking him to allow 15% of the regional roads budget be spent on the local roads, for one year.

However, officials said they had already made a representation to the Minister’s office and could have an answer in as little as two weeks.

The meeting also heard that South Tipperary has been chosen as one of a handful of counties where a pilot roads survey is being carried out, to determine the state of every road in the county.

Cllrs Sylvia Cooney Sheehan and Joe Brennan proposed they “seek an appointment ASAP with Minster Varadkar” to seek 15% of the regional roads money to repair county and local roads “that have disintegrated severely.”

The matter was debated and Director of Services, Pat Slattery, told the meeting that his officials have already made a similar request and are now awaiting a reply.

Proposing the deputation, Cllr Cooney Sheehan said representations were coming to councillors nearly every day. “How people are driving these roads every day is unbelievable.”

She said patching didn’t seem to be working and that while people understand the Council’s funds are tied they are angry and upset.

Explaining the proposal to diver funds from regional to local roads, the Carrick on Suir councillor said regional roads didn’t suffer from potholes.

“It’s the most stressful thing for people. The Minister’s car wouldn’t last five minutes if he had to drive down one of these roads, he should be made to drive down in his own car. I saw one road and I don’t know how an ambulance would get up there.

“We need emergency money. We need to tackle the situation ASAP,” she argued. “We’ve reached a critical point, it should never have been allowed to go this far.”

Cllr Cooney Sheehan demanded the deputation take place this month so that people could be told a case had been made for them, “so we can give people hope, give them belief.”

Cllr Brennan said the situation had gotten desperate. People are under a lot of financial pressure and they can’t afford to upgrade the suspension in their cars every couple of months. “There is a lot of anger. People feel let down by councillors. Outdoor staff are frustrated, they feel they aren’t being given the resources.

“If regional roads money could be diverted for one year we could blitz the potholes.”

He described roads in the Ahenny to Cloneen area, in his electoral area, where, driving them, you’d ‘feel rattles in bones where you didn’t know you had bones!’

Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald urged spending development charge money before the amalgamation with North Tipp County Council and Clrl John Fahey said the council need to spend the money where the problem is.

Cllr Jimmy O’Brien said people in rural Ireland felt ignored.

Cllr Joe Donovan pointed out they had been talking about potholes for years. “It’s become boring now here, talking about potholes. It’s also become embarrassing to be a county councillor in a rural area. You can hardly drive, zig-zagging across the road.

“We had this carry on even when the place was supposedly awash with money.”

Mr Slattery said it was not about making excuses but he pointed out that over 200,000 houses had been built in rural areas in the last ten years, machinery and types of traffic on rural roads are heavier and the council has seen their roads budget cut by 40%.

He explained that a road survey is currently being carried out by engineers as part of a national pilot project, using photography and GPS, and that can be used to show the Minister that Tipperary is in a different situation to other counties. That will be completed in May and Mr Slattery suggested delaying any deputation until this information was readily available, “to strengthen our hand.”

He agreed with councillors that counties that have significant roads damage should receive money to carry out repairs, adding that he is looking at a number of initiatives.

However councillors were unhappy with delaying, with Cllr Cooney Sheehan saying there was no way people could be told to wait another three or four months.

Mr Slattery then pointed out that officials had made their own representation for the 15% of regional roads funding to be spent on local roads and an answer is expected in the next two weeks.