Public Meetings Reports

Connacht Tribune Friday 1st May 2009

 

POLITICIANS GET A ROASTING AT PUBLIC MEETING

 

Public representatives and Galway County Council officials were subjected to a torrent of abuse from frustrated residents and business leaders at the public meeting in Gort on Monday night.

 

But the angry meeting still produced a nugget of hope for the erection of new public toilets at The Square courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce.

 

Gorts business people joined in the barracking of public representatives, and will be the first to welcome the toilets to forestall the regular parties of tourists travelling via the N18 and call in primarily to use their washroom facilities.  Galway County Councils officials though absent were the butt of severe criticism.

 

The officials had continuously rejected the new public toilets as an uneconomical provision.  They reasoned on the analogy of the new public toilets at Loughrea, where there was the paltry return of 50 toilets fees on the outlay of 250,000.

 

Chairman Paddy Grealish, who announced that the Chamber is to apply for planning permission for an 800 square feet toiler block at The Square, commented: No wonder the country is the way it is.  Theres something fishy going on.

 

Other hot potatoes for the public representatives to field generated angry and insulting comments from the attendance. They were alone without the officials in the eye of the storm, seated between the Chamber top table and the floor.  As background fro the ensuring invective, there was an amplified recording of RTEs Liveline last week with two Gort men, Sean Brady and John OSullivan.

 

All eyes were on the public representatives as the interview ranged with a vengeance over Gorts grievances for the nation to conclude that Gort was a sad place.

 

The Chamber gave time for a presentation of their case to each of the public representatives present and it took great effort to ensure interruptions from the floor were curtailed.

 

Cllr Michael Regan quoted the Councils verdict that the water, while brown and smelly, was fit for drinking and Jim Cullens comment that Gorts Regional Water Scheme is years away.  By 2013, all water will be up to the standard set by the E.U. Directive.

 

Cllr. Bridie Willers said she was present for the opening and examination of the tenders for the upgrade of Gorts Water treatment plant.  A decision on the selected contractor will be made with in the next ten days and then theyll be on their way to the Department of the Environment in Dublin.

 

Galway County Council have available their share of the funding, but there is no guarantee that the Department of the Environment will provide the necessary funding.  A refusal of Department funding would be a disaster as the upgrade of the water treatment plant is essential, she said.  Cllr Willers told the meeting that Failte Irelands Fiona Monaghan had assured the Mayor of County Galway, Cllr Peter Feeney, that Failte Ireland were willing to hand back Gort Town Hall to the Diocese of Galway and Gort community.

 

Cllr Pat Hynes explained that power is centralised in the government departments in Dublin and the buck stops with them.  The people are not being listened to in their demands for a second entrance to the town from the new dual-carriageway.

 

Cllr Michael Fahy said that the upgrading of Gorts water treatment plant will begin next July.

 

But 4 million has been cut off the Roads budget.  The Council will lay off 28 men and all workers will go on a 3 day week.

 

South Galways roads are a disgrace.  Its all down to funding, big builders and big bankers and not one of them will serve a day in Castlerea Prison, he said.

 

Dail Deputy Noel Treacy pointed out that Gort Traffic Management Plan will be reviewed in 2010.  Gort will have a car park when land is available at a reasonable price and the funds are there for the project.

 

Two candidates in previous local elections were among those who addressed the public representative directly.   We hear the same old rhetoric from ye.  No money from the government, and Adrian Feeney, a candidate in the local elections next June.

 

Im frustrated ye guys did not support us.  What the hell have ye been doing with our money?   Only for the volunteers wed be dead and gone, he said.

 

P.J. Baldwin declared: I didnt get elected when I went for election.  Theres no point standing for election.  Why havent we a government minister? Micheal Kitt was taken away from us.  Were being codded.  Its as simple as that, he concluded.

 

 

The Clare Champion Friday, May 1st 2009

 

GORT TO GET NEW PUBLIC TOILETS AND BETTER WATER

 

Gort looks set to finally get new public toilets and an improved water supply, it was revealed at a meeting organised by Gort Chamber of Commerce on Monday night.

 

The organisation told the meeting it is going to apply for planning permission for toilets on the site of the existing mens toilets in The Square while public representatives in attendance committed to upgrading the towns water supply.

 

Gort Chamber of Commerce had been hoping that Galway County Council would foot the bill for the replacement of the towns public toilets.  However, after a number of meetings with local representatives it became clear that money was not available for such a project.

 

The new toilets are expected to consist of town units, a ladies and a gents.  The ladies toilets are likely to consist of two cubicles where one will be wheelchair accessible while the mens toilets will have a wheelchair-accessible cubicle and a urinal.

 

If we get these toilets, they will have to be properly maintained and by that I would think they would need to be washed two to three times a day, a spokesperson for the chamber stated.

 

The chamber estimates the cost of building the toilets will be somewhere in the region of 30,000, however, it will cost more to maintain the units.  The chamber will begin fundraising if it receives planning permission for the toilets, with a decision expected on this in about six weeks.  It is not yet decided if there will be a cost for using the facility.

 

Because of Gorts location on the main N18 Galway to Limerick Road, it is a hugely popular stop-off point for buses travelling between the two cities.  The lack of public toilets in the town has been a major issue for many of the chambers members.  Businessman John Sullivan of Sullivans Hotel, The Square, was extremely critical of the situation at the last public meeting organised by the Chamber.

 

He pointed out that he had to pay water charges and that people were using the hotel facilities without spending any money on the premises.  Mr Sullivan stated at that meeting that during one six and a half hour period on a Sunday in August 2007, 172 people used the toilets in his premises and left without buying anything.

 

Also at the meeting public representatives announced that the towns water supply in set for improvement.

 

If anything positive came out of the meeting it was the commitment to a water scheme, Gerry Finnerty, Fianna Fil local election candidate and PRO of Gort Chamber of Commerce, stated.  The commitment is not to the regional water scheme, which is still nowhere near happening, but instead to updating the current one.  There is going to be a mobile unit placed at the reservoir and that should improve the quality and colour of the water, he continued.

 

According to the local representatives, the water in Gort is a priority for the council.  The unit itself will cost about 1 million.

 

We are told the tenders are in and one has been accepted and that has been forwarded to the Department of the environment to draw down funding to cover the new update of the system and pipe insulation work in certain areas, Mr Finnerty said.

 

The councillors had very negative news with regards to the regional water scheme.  They are saying that the money isnt there from central government, even though there is a commitment to it in the National Development Plan, a lot of things on that wont go ahead, he predicted.

 

The combined cost of the unit and the upgrading of the pipe system is thought to be in the region of 3 million.

 

A number of other issues were up for discussion at the meeting, which followed a similar one in February, including the lack of a public car park in the town, no second entrance from the bypass to Gort, road conditions and the lack of a playground and town hall in the area.

 

There was no movement on the other issues since the last meeting.  We wont get a second entrance to the by-pass until there is a population increase sufficient to warrant it.  With regard to the car park, we have been told the council cannot locate an appropriate site at an appropriate cost, Mr Finnerty concluded.

 

There was palpable frustration among the crown gathered in Sullivans Hotel.  One man pointed out what he considered the excellent facilities in Loughrea and Portumna and stated that achieving anything in Gort was an uphill struggle.  The time taken to achieve even simple upgrades was criticised by others present while there was also condemnation from the floor about the lack of amenities available for children.

 

Some people expressed their anger by threatening to stop paying their can tax because of the condition of the roads in the town.  However, councillors promised that the roads and footpaths would be resurfaced as soon as the by-pass is operational.

 

 

Connacht Tribune Friday 13th February 2009

 

GOOD NEWS FOR GORT A S TREATMENT PLANT MOVES CLOSER TO COMPLETION

 

GORTS water treatment plant now to be upgraded is expected to be fully operational by next autumn according to the public representatives in attendance at the public meeting in Gort last Monday.

 

The meeting, called by Gort Chamber of Commerce at Sullivans Hotel, was attended by Minister of State Michael Kitt T.D., Noel Treacy T.D., Ulick Burke T.D., Galway Mayor Councillor Peter Feeney, and Councillors Bridie Willers, Michael Fahy, Michael Regan, Pat Hynes and Michael Maher.

 

The meeting was told that no site had yet been found for a town car park.  A site for a playground has been identified but legalities are delaying its realisation.

 

An impressive 160 people attended the meeting which was presided over by Mr. Paddy Grealish, Chairman.  There were many expressions of disappointment that no progress was being made in the matter of the provision of public toilets in the town.

 

It was heard that new public toilets would be very expensive to construct and the return from them would not justify the expense.

 

Criticism was voiced about the Town Hall and how it was not being used.  The point was made that it should be returned to the town again for the benefit of the townspeople.

 

Criticism was also raised about the fact that there would be only one entrance to the town for the new dual-carriageway, unless the need demanded another.

 

Complaints were voiced about the towns one-way-traffic streets, and one person declared One way traffic is going the wrong way.

 

It was explained that the revised Gort Local Area Plan could incorporate suggested improvements to the traffic, street parking and crossings for disabled road users.

 

Gort Chamber of Commerce will hold its next public meeting on April 27th 2009.

 

The Clare Champion Friday 13th February 2009

 

WATER SUPPLY IN TOWN IS EMBARRASSING

 

The Gort water supply is serious problem and seriously embarrassing to us as public representatives, Dil Deputy Noel Treacy admitted at a public meeting on Monday night, organised by the Gort Chamber of Commerce to discuss parking, public toilets, roads and water in the town.

 

Deputy Treacy stated that the current water supply is an absolute disaster but that the county council plans to undertake remedial work later this year.  The Fianna Fil TD also told the meeting that he did not expect any upgrade works to be carried out on roads near the bypass until work on it is completed.

 

Meanwhile, Galway County Councillor, Bridie Willers, defended her record in representing the people of Gort on the issues raised at the meeting.  Galway County Council advised that the water supply situation in Gort is critical.  We all know that.  As the timeline for the delivery of the Gort Regional Water Scheme with its source in Lough Cutra is still a number of years away, the council has commenced a remedial action scheme for the current supply including a new temporary water treatment plant. She stated.

 

She added that she expected it to begin in 2009 and that tenders have been received in relation to the upgrade of the water by she acknowledged that the Gort Regional Water scheme is a long way down the line, with Mayor of Galway, Peter Feeney agreeing adding that the scheme is almost as far out as a light house.

 

Councillor Willers continued that she could see the chaos in the town and stated that she realises parking on Church Street is not working. It is providing car parking for the workers but causing problems, she stated.

 

She said she had requested Galway County Council do a traffic audit on Gort because she feels it is dangerous to try and come from The Square onto the N18, however, she added that this had yet to be carried out.

 

She also stated that Galway County Council looked for 2 million from the National Roads Authority for the upgrade of the N18 through Gort and were told that there is no money currently available for the upgrade of the main thoroughfare, which is in a disgraceful condition.

 

The Fine Gael councillor also expressed her doubt at the prospect of getting a second entrance to Gort from the by pass.  Im not very optimistic about it, that we will see the second entrance.  There is no point in coming here and saying yell have a second entrance in five years time.  Quite honestly, I dont think Ill ever see a second entrance in my lifetime.

 

The Labane woman spoke about the issue of the public toilets saying she had put down motions with the county council as far back as 2006 in relation to funding for developing a toilet facility in The Square.  She said she was told in response to her most recent query in December that the only funding available in 2009 is for the maintenance of the existing public toilets in Gort.  She added that a public toilet was erected in Loughrea, costing in the region of 250,000 but yielded only 40.

 

Fine Gael TD Ulick Burke said he felt that, in the interest of safety, remedial work should be carried out on the main roads in the town.  He added that he believed Gort should have a second entrance from the bypass stating.  I cant find any other town where a road passes by and only one entrance has been provided.

 

Deputy Burke was also highly critical of the footpaths in the town saying Galway County Council are very lucky that in these times, they dont have many more claims against them because of the conditions of the footpaths in certain areas of the town.

 

Councillor Michael Fahy reminded the meeting that he was in unusual circumstances when the car parking arrangements were made for Gort but he said he does not blame elected members of the local authority.  He added that he believed the plan was very badly thought out.

 

He added that he believed the lack of public toilets in the town was a very serious issue.  Personally, I dont know what we are going to have to do in the council to get toilets built in the present time.  I, myself, last week made representations to the Minister for Defence, Willie ODea to see would he allow the FCA barracks on Barrack Street to be open to buses and to the general public as a temporary measure until such a time as toilet facilities would be erected in the town.  Im waiting for a response on that.

 

Councillor Michael Regan said he believed there is little demand amongst members of the general public to use a public toilet and admitted he did not hold out much hope for the development of new facilities in the town because the county council has turned down a number of requests for money for toilets.

 

Councillor Regan also pointed out that the Traffic Management Plan was advertised and received 37 submissions, none of which were from the Chamber of Commerce.

 

When a plan is adopted, it takes time to revert it, he added, you cant just go out and change a double line to a single line.  A plan is obsolete if you do that.

 

It will be reviewed but it will take some time.  How much time I dont know but we would hope possible in the next 12 to 18 months. He concluded.

 

Mayor of Galway, Peter Feeney told those assembled that Traffic Management is not a money making racket; it is to keep the traffic moving, keep parking spaces clear around the town.  That is the theory.  It that is not the way it is working out, then we will have a chat about it again.

 

Following the meeting, Adrian Feeney, who is running in the local elections for the Loughrea Electoral Area, spoke about his dismay at the meeting.

 

I am exceptionally disappointed.  Once again Gort has lost out.  We are not being represented.  Everyone blamed everyone else and no one took reponsiblity for out needs.  Out needs will not be met if the status quo remains.  Finally we were asked to contribute to the County Development Plan again, why bother?  For the past 20 years, we have got nothing and out needs are printed in black and white. Mr Feeney stated.

 

A follow up meeting has been organised for April 27th 2009.

 

MEETING TOLD OF RUBBISH CONDITIONS IN GORT

 

The town is in a very serious situation.  We need help.  Peoples rates are increasing.  Their parking costs are increasing.  The quality of the service they are paying extra for has decreased, one contributor told a recent public meeting in Gort, organised by the local Chamber of Commerce.

 

His comments reflected the mood of many of the more than 200-strong audience at the meeting to discuss issues relating to parking, public toilets and roads.

 

Our footpaths are rubbish.  Our streets are rubbish. Parking is a joke. It is a joke.  There is a recession on.  People are trying their damnedest to keep their doors open; they cant even park outside their businesses and their customers cant park outside because of the council.  Our water is a disaster.

 

The man went on to warn sitting Galway County Councillors who he said, will soon be knocking on our doors, not to look for votes on the back of any of the issues being discussed at the meeting.

 

Can you imagine if the Celtic Tiger was still going and there was demand for houses and more demand for things?  The town would have to shut down.  We wouldnt be able to do it.  The town would be an embarrassment to say the least.  We are not far off it as it is, he concluded.

 

Gort previously had mens public toilets located in The Square.  The caretaker of the mens toilets retired three months ago and they are not now being maintained.  The ladies toilets, situated in what is now the courthouse, have been closed for a number of years.

 

Local solicitor, Colman Sherry, pointed out one anomaly of not having any public toilets in The Square.  At a time when we will be relying mire and more on tourism, there are no public toilets in the town, he stated.

 

Our problem with toilets has nothing to do with the economic recession because we have had this problem for three years, right in the middle of the Celtic Tiger, he added.

 

One woman told those present that last year she met seven Austrian tourists in the town.  I had to bring them into my house to go to the toilet, she declared.

 

Businessman John Sullivan criticised the lack of public toilets in the town saying that it was costing local companies money.  He said he would not recommend that anyone use the public toilets in the Square.  It is shameful to the county council.  It is shameful to Gort to have that sort of facility there.

He pointed out that he currently has a bill for water of more than 9,000 and that in a six and a half-hour period on one Sunday in August 2007, 172 people used the toilets in his premises and left without buying anything.

   

He also pointed out that the cost of water was just one element of the expense caused by people coming into the premises just to use the toilet.  He added that hand-washing detergents, electricity, insurance, heating for water and staff costs all increased as a result of people coming in to use the facilities.

 

I dont think it is good enough that there is this huge cost to business owners, he stated.

 

Mr Sullivan also commented on the water quality in the town.  If you were provided with the same glass of water in another establishment in some other county in Ireland, you would take grave issue with the disgraceful colour of the water.  Right through to the bedrooms, if we left the same water in the toilet bowl, it looks like the toilet hasnt been flushed, he explained.

 

One elderly man described the water in Gort as pure poison while a woman stated, As a customer around the town, if you drank a cup of tea in the town, you would never come back and drink a cup of tea again, adding: The water in the pool tastes better.

 

Another woman said she had a neighbour who lived in a caravan a few years ago and she asked me for some water.  I gave her a bucket of water.  She threw it out because she thought I had given her dirty water.

 

We were supposed to have the Celtic Tiger.  I didnt hear his roar or even feel the swish of his tail, she concluded.

 

The towns Traffic Management Plan was strongly criticised by a number of people at the meeting.

 

We now have a farcical situation in Church Street where people in business, some of them generations in business in this town, havent any room outside their door for their customers to come along.  These are people who employ people.  They cant have their customers park outside their door because it is free parking and some of those people in that street have paid Galway County Council thousands of euro in planning contributions an yet there is no parking outside their door for their business premises.  How have you allowed that to happen?  Colman Sherry asked councillors.

 

Vet Gerry Slattery criticised the effect of the plan of Slipper Street in particular which he said has yellow lines on it and was made one-way in what he considers the wrong direction.

 

The whole thing was done in a very arrogant fashion.  There was no consultation with the people in the town, he claimed, while acknowledging that there was a public meeting, which he did not attend.

 

Mr Slattery also raised the issue of the lack of playgrounds in Gort, which he said is something that needed to be addressed.

 

Numerous contributors to the meeting expressed their desire to have a second entrance to the bypass in Gort.  The services in Gort, the pubs, shops, petrol stations, they could be the most accessible on all the road between Limerick and Tuam.  There is no other town or village that could be as accessible as Gort but a lot will depend on a second exit for the dual carriageway, one man pointed out.

 

Frustrations were also expressed about difficulties in relation to obtaining parking permits for commercial vehicles.