Galway’s new City Manager is bracing himself for his first major battle in the job when he announces his controversial decision on Monday to privatise the city’s household refuse collection service.
A number of councillors have already said they will oppose any move by Galway City Council to pull out of the waste disposal operation and put it out for tender to be privatised.
In only his second City Council meeting, City Manager, Brendan McGrath, will be met with strong opposition to his decision following a review of the waste disposal services.
Though that decision hadn’t been announced officially by yesterday evening, it is almost certain that it will mean the end of the Council-operated service.
It cost the Council €4.5 million to operate last year with an income of €2.8 million leaving them with a shortfall of €1.7 million, which includes €500,000 to cover the waiver scheme for 2,400 households.
Galway is the last urban council in the country to be operating a bin collection and the move to privatise was exclusively revealed in the Galway City Tribune three weeks ago – customers have fallen from 22,000 nine years ago to just under 11,000 last year, of which about 20% are non-paying waiver customers.
It’s within the City Manager’s executive remit to make a decision on it without any input from elected councillors and, though he hadn’t disclosed his decision by yesterday, some councillors have already thrown down the gauntlet and vowed to fight this all the way. It is believed the decision will be revealed to councillors at Monday’s meeting of Galway City Council.
Councillor Catherine Connolly has asked councillors to stand together and ensure that the city’s ‘exemplary’ public refuse collection service was not undermined by management for short-term gain and said that any proposal by the City Manager to privatise the refuse service would be challenged.
The main objection to the privatisation of the service is the threat to the waiver scheme which provides either a free or reduced charge refuse collection to pensioners, the unemployed and people in receipt of social welfare.
Mayor of Galway, Cllr Pádraig Conneely said that the customer loss was no longer making it viable for the Council to run the service, though he said he, too, was concerned about the waiver scheme.
“Since new waste operators came into the city, prices have become very competitive and we have been losing customers at such a rate that the Council couldn’t compete.
Galway City Council declined to make a comment.
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For more on this story, see the Galway City Tribune.
Zoning for houses ‘could impact Galway City Ring Road plan’
Councillors have voted to rezone farming land in Rahoon to allow for houses to be developed, against the advice of planners who warned it could impact on the planned Galway City Ring Road.
The Office of Planning Regulator and Chief Executive of Galway City Council both advised elected members not to change the zoning use from agricultural to residential on the 2.842-hectare (7-acre) site. But it was passed with 14 in favour, three against and one absent.
Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind), who proposed the motion, said there was a need for more land to be zoned residential to facilitate the growth in population of 40,000 over the next 18 years. Cllr Noel Larkin seconded his proposal.
Brendan McGrath, the Chief Executive, said there was “no requirement to rezone additional land for residential purposes to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029”.
He said there was sufficient zoned land available to enable development.
The OPR said voting to change the zoning represented a piecemeal approach to planning and was inconsistent with national and regional policy.
“It is also considered that the proposed rezoning could prejudice the strategic future optimal use of these lands in the longer term. With regard to impact on the objective for the N6 Galway City Ring Road Scheme (GCRR), all development has to take cognisance of the objective for the N6 GCRR.
“It is also noted that the draft plan includes that the objective for the N6 GCRR has priority over all land use zoning objectives which is considered to provide sufficient protection to safeguard the scheme objective,” Mr McGrath said.
The National Transport Authority said this rezoning should not be allowed as it is likely to lead to development that was “wholly car-dependent and contrary to national and regional objectives”.
Cash-strapped students targeted by drug dealers, policing meeting hears
Cash-strapped students in Galway are being targeted by drug lords to act as money mules, a city councillor has warned.
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) made the remarks at a public meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and said that the €667,000 worth of drugs seized by city gardaí in the first 10 months of the year “is only the tip of the iceberg”.
The meeting at the Connacht Hotel heard that some €45 million passed through the accounts of so-called money mules nationwide this year alone.
Cllr Cheevers said drug dealers were targeting young people in particular.
“They’re in the 18 to 24-year-old age bracket and college students are being targeted,” said Cllr Cheevers.
It was revealed that cocaine was by far the most common drug seized in Galway, making up over half of all the drugs detected – cocaine valued at €348,000 was seized in the 10 months to the end of October.
This was closely followed by cannabis, of which €260,000 worth was taken off the streets by gardaí, while the remainder of the total was made up by heroin, ecstasy and other illegal drugs.
Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said the drugs problem was “unquantifiable” and promised that city gardaí were “attacking money laundering in a targeted and systematic way”.
Drugs were not only an urban problem but were a huge issue in county towns as well, he said, and all gardaí, from uniformed to armed response, were focused on the issue.
“Roads policing are taking a targeted role in tackling it as well,” said Chief Supt Roche.
“A new strategy is starting tomorrow,” he said at the meeting..
“Getting involved in being a money mule is a personal choice. We can warn and caution people against it.
“We can say so much but people continue to do things that are illegal,” he added.
‘Furore’ over rezoning plan for access to B&B on Headford Road in Galway
From the Galway City Tribune – Councillors have voted to rezone a small section of Terryland Forest Park from recreational and amenity use to residential.
A majority of elected members also approved the insertion of a specific objective into the new Galway City Development Plan 2023-29 that would allow an entrance to the site through Sandyvale Lawn.
This was to facilitate safe access to a home and B&B business off Headford Road, which had become dangerous due to the recent changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic lights junction.
Residents of Sandyvale Lawn, a 100+ housing estate off Headford Road, had objected to the proposals, and so too had Tuatha Terryland Forest Park, an alliance of volunteers and organisations.
The Office of Planning Regulator (OPR) and Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, as well as his planning department and recreational and amenity department, had all objected to the changes.
The rezoning, and insertion of a specific objective to facilitate an entrance to the estate, was contained in the same material alteration that came before councillors, but they were obliged to vote on them separately.
Several councillors argued that a new entrance to Sandyvale Lawn was necessary to facilitate safe access to a B&B on Headford Road.
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Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said the family who owned this business and home had been treated poorly by the City Council during the reconfiguration of the Kirwan roundabout to a signalised junction.
Referencing the large opposition to the proposal, he said the “furore over this is astounding” and argued the impact on green space and the Sandyvale Lawn estate would be minimal.
Cllr Crowe said the proposal was about creating a safe exit and entrance.
Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said there had been a number of near misses of cars coming in and out of the B&B, which were captured on video.
He said the current system, whereby an amber traffic light allows access to the B&B was “haphazard and dangerous”. He feared there would be a fatality if a new entrance was not approved.
“I don’t like to rezone RA [Recreational & Amenity] land but in this situation we don’t have a choice. We have to remedy a dangerous situation,” Cllr Fahy said.
Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said RA land was “absolutely sacrosanct” and she would not vote to rezone.
She asked what the legal position was regarding a rezoning of green space, which residents claimed had been paid for through a green levy applied 40 years ago when the estate was built.
Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem) said he had voted initially to include the material alteration to support the B&B owners, as the removal of the roundabout had made access more dangerous for them.
But he said he would now support the residents of Sandyvale Lawn who had opposed the change.
Cllr Declan McDonnell said the family had lived there for 50 years and now it was more dangerous accessing their home through no fault of their own.
He said it was not safe that they have to enter and exit their home on an amber flashing light.
In a submission, residents of Sandyvale Lawn said the new entrance would negatively impact their estate, by increasing traffic, noise and an addition risk to children playing. They said it could be turned into another rat run like Ballinfoile and Tirellan. They also argued against the loss of green space.
Submissions also objected to the loss of the green space which was part of Terryland Forest Park, dubbed the ‘lungs of the city’.
Mr McGrath asked councillors not to rezone the land and not to insert the specific objective for a new entrance.
Both changes, however, were approved. The RA to R rezoning passed by a 12-5 vote and the specific objective for a new entrance passed by 11-5.