Author: Denise McNamara
~ 4 minutes read
The location of communal salt bins in some towns and villages will likely be rolled out across County Galway after a pilot project in the Loughrea Municipal District “saved lives” during the recent cold snap.
Councillor Shane Curley (FF) asked Galway County Council to consider extending its gritting programme and not just concentrate on the main roads.
Councillor Martina Kinane (FF) said while she welcomed the initiative in the likes of Clarinbridge, constituents were concerned that some areas cannot avail of the free salt, particularly in areas like Craughwell and Maree.
“It’s small, but it has a very positive outcome and it could even have saved lives this morning,” she insisted.
Cllr Joe Byrne (FG) said the Council published its winter plan every year detailing which main roads would be gritted.
“The notion that we’re going to cart staff from Galway County Council to come and grit every road – it’s populist. We have 1,000km of roads in our areas. It’s absolutely not possible to grit or salt every road and every footpath.”
Director of Service in charge of the Loughrea area, Eileen Ruane, said the winter plan was agreed by all parties every year apart from emergency situations.
“It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. There has been an increase in general operatives across all districts, we could look at whether they can do anything.”
Executive Engineer Gerard Haugh said the additional salt bins was an initiative of Loughrea Municipal District and councillors had been asked to put up some of their discretionary budget – or Notice of Motion funding – to place them at strategic locations.
They had to be located in an area where a Council staffer could check them regularly and fill them up.
Councillors in other areas would be invited to fund the bins across the rest of the county, he told the meeting.
Cllr Kinane said she was willing to fund the €1,200 for a bin in Maree as salt had been delivered outside the community centre some years ago and it had been a mess.
Cllr Curley insisted that he was only calling for the footpaths to be gritted in areas of high footfall – not every single road in the county.
He later told the Connacht Tribune: “We only get a couple of weeks max of this kind of weather every year. We just secured an extra €5 million in this year’s council budget. Injuries from falls are one of the major reasons that elderly people end up in hospital. Why not grit the footpaths for the few days that they’re lethal.
“Volunteerism in the town has been really encouraging. The salt bin has been filled to the top and by the following morning, been found empty numerous times this week. This is because of the amount of people voluntarily spreading salt. People seem to just roll up the sleeves and get on with things and fair play to them.”
Meanwhile, at a meeting of Tuam Municipal Council this week, it was suggested that salt bins should be provided at schools and community centres in the interest of safety.
According to Cllr Mary Hoade (FF), the bins should be provided in rural areas that are not gritted by the County Council.
She said she used some of her discretionary funding to provide a stockpile of salt at a number of locations in her area to allow people to take it and make surfaces safer.
An update was provided at the meeting on work carried out during inclement winter weather.
It outlined the effect of heavy rainfall on roads infrastructure and maintenance, particularly due to the impact of flooding.
Senior Engineer John Coyle said that the current spell of low temperatures was also affecting road maintenance and that the Council was not in a position to fix and grit every route as there was over 6,000 miles of roads within the county.
Priority was given to the most important routes such as primary roads, secondary roads and regional roads.
Councillor Hoade then raised the issue of the provision of salt bins for use by local communities.
She said councillors’ discretionary money had been provided to facilitate the widespread availability of salt bins across the Municipal Council to help the public with access to important routes during this prolonged cold spell.
“It’s to allow people come and take it as some of the rural roads are icy.
“There will be salt bins at the GAA Club in Headford, Presentation College in Headford and close to Caherlistrane Church.
“I am asking that there will be further salt bins provided across the county over the coming days so that local areas are made safe,” added Cllr Hoade.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:
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