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CITY TRIBUNE

Budget records €10m boost to City Council coffers

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Galway City Council’s draft budget will show an increased purse of almost €10 million when it is presented to councillors this afternoon – with housing and planning set to get the biggest boost.

The budget, which has a total forecasted spend just shy of €88 million, leaves rates and Local Property Tax untouched – while funding for housing will be matched by a parallel income provision from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

In his budget report, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, says that Budget 2019 will continue to make provision to “maintain existing services to a high standard” – adding that matched funding for housing will allow the Council to fund and staff new projects in the city.

“The expansion of our responsibilities in areas such as climate change, tourism, economic development, recreation and amenity, and data protection are some of the areas that will be covered.

“Provisions are also included relating to the Local Elections in 2019 and other related and associated costs,” he adds.

Other areas due to get a cash injection include the progression of the Galway Transport Strategy and Galway City Centre Traffic Management plan, flood risk assessment and management, expansion of the museum and improvements to the canal network – as well as a €155,000 for city heritage sites.

Just over €27 million is allocated to housing and building, with a further €7 million for development management, which incorporates planning.

Income from rents and parking is forecasted to increase, while burying a loved one could be about to get a lot more expensive, with the Council Executive seeking the approval of councillors to increase plot prices by 10 per cent – a move they estimate would generate €30,000.

Retrofitting of the City Council’s housing stock will enter Phase 2 in 2019, with a Department grant of €500,000 ringfenced to carry out external insulation, internal dry lining and replacement windows and doors for suitable properties among the Council’s over 2,300 units.

The report contains a stark warning about the local authority’s future finances – with Mr McGrath advising that additional funds will have to be raised from 2020 onwards.

“It will be extremely difficult in 2020 and in succeeding years to address the city’s growing financial needs without generating future additional growth in income,” he states.

Budget 2019 makes way for the recruitment of additional staff among the Council’s outdoor staff in roads and parks – with provision made for the replacement of a number of “critical outdoor and indoor posts”.

The list of areas attracting new expenditure includes: river walk and pedestrian bridge repair works (€50,000); event support for Galway 2020 (€400,000); a new entrance at Castle Park (€68,000); restoration of Chapel at Bohermore Cemetery (€23,000); playground equipment replacement (€110,000); a contribution towards the development of Woodquay Park (€15,000); and a grant towards an Amenity Walkway at Ballyloughane (€10,000).

Expenditure on homeless services will increase dramatically by €2.7 million – an increase that will be fully funded by the Department.

Funding for lifeguards at city beaches is also on the rise, with an increase of €56,000 bringing the total projected spend for 2019 to €196,000. This will enable the Council to extend the service period.

Pensions and gratuities are also up by €337,000 to €3.3 million – in anticipation of potential departures as a result of Local Elections in 2019.

Elsewhere, funding has been maintained for the Christmas Park and Ride at Ballybrit (€90,000), continuing Green Leaf environmental projects (€68,000) and the operation of civic buildings including the museum, the Town Hall Theatre and Leisureland (€1.3 million).

Budgeting remains a reserved function of councillors and so the final say on how monies are allocated will be had by local representatives at today’s meeting.

CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.

In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.

Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.

Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.

The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.

Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.

Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.

Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Pamela’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Racecourse Park and Ride a non-runner for Christmas in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The lack of a park and ride service this Christmas will drive shoppers out of town at a time when businesses are struggling to recover from months in lockdown, the Mayor has warned.

This is after it was revealed that the City Council has failed to secure an alternative location for the service – with its usual base at Galway Racecourse out of action due to the ongoing vaccination programme.

The service, which had previously operated for the three-week period in the run up to Christmas, enabled motorists to park their cars in Ballybrit and take a return trip by bus to town at a cost of just €2 – taking hundreds of cars out of the city centre.

The Mayor, Cllr Colette Connolly, said it was ‘completely ludicrous’ that it would not be in operation this year, in a city that was already gridlocked with car traffic.

“I think that it is a retrograde step not to proceed with the Christmas Park and Ride because we know what will happen – we’ve seen before what happens at the Corrib Centre around Christmas where traffic backs up and people get stuck in the car park,” said the Mayor.

This would result in shoppers from outside the city avoiding coming in, while others would go to other towns and cities to avoid traffic misery.

“They will go to Limerick or to Dublin, which is only two-and-a-half hours away. They will go to Athlone, because they may as well go there, rather than spend two hours sitting in traffic on Lough Atalia,” added the Independent councillor.

In Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath’s report to councillors, it is stated that “it is looking unlikely that Galway City Council will be able to run the Christmas Park and Ride in 2021”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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