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Galway water rights handover could be jobs disaster

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The City Manager has been asked not to sign over control over the local authority’s water network to the newly-established Irish Water, after it emerged the Council will have no say whatsoever on pricing and repairs.

The impending changeover has been branded “disastrous” by one councillor, who warned it could cost hundreds of jobs in the hospitality and leisure sectors, as well as rising costs for households.

Under the Government’s new ‘Service Level Agreement’ with the local authority, pricing for domestic and commercial customers will be controlled by the by the Commission for Energy Regulation, while reports for leaks and service interruptions will be handled by a central call centre in Limerick.

The City Manager and his senior officials are understood to have serious reservations and concerns about Environment Minister Phil Hogan’s new legislation – it will have an impact across Council departments, including finance and property.

Brendan McGrath is due to make a report to councillors at a meeting today (Monday) outlining the impact the changeover will have and is expected to allow councillors vote on the issue.

Cllr Michael Crowe – Chair of the Council’s Transport and infrastructure Committee – has proposed (and received backing from other councillors) that the Manager not sign the Service Level Agreement (SLA), despite the Minister holding the executive power to introduce the change.

The SLA is supposed to be signed later this month – the issue is expected to cause a heated debate in the Council Chamber next week.

Ironically, Irish Water is headed by the former Galway City Manager John Tierney.

“There are serious questions to be answered regarding the transfer of the city’s water supply over to Irish Water. For example, when a there is a problem like a burst and a member of the public wants to report it, they will have to ring Irish Water and not City Hall. Imagine!

“When repairs need to be done, Irish Water will have to give approval to Galway City Council before the works can be carried out. Furthermore, and this is my deepest concern, the price of water will be decided by the Energy Regulator and not by the Council in our Budget (until now, commercial water charges have been set by local authorities).

“It will work the same as electricity and gas do now. The regulator decides and that’s it. No appeal, no direct say, end of story. Effectively, some guy in an office in Dublin will decide on how much our water will be. It is absolute madness.

“We have seen through the rise of gas and electricity costs what centralising power to an office in Dublin does. It results in higher prices for everyone.

“This whole rush to ram this through and hand everything over to Irish Water is nonsense. We should do all we can to stop this. Since our difficulties with cryptosporidium we have done enormous work and now have water that is second-to-none in the country. And now after all this, the Government has decided to take our water out of our control and hand it over to an office in Dublin. 

“Every water user in Galway should now understand that this will result in higher prices. The big users such as hotels, leisure centres, sports clubs etc will all see their costs rise and subsequently the prices for their customers will rise,” said Cllr Crowe.

A spokesperson for the City Council said the issue is under ongoing discussion between the City and County Managers’ Association and the Water Services Transition Office.

“The Manager is proactively and strongly looking after issues for a seamless provision of water. Collectively, as Managers (around the country), they are engaging with Irish Water.

“The transition to Irish Water is a dynamic process which is ongoing, for example, the City Manager received the latest draft SLA on Thursday morning, which he will be considering and bringing before councillors on Monday,” said the spokesperson.

He said that repairs will be fixed by customers phoning the Irish Water call centre, which will then dispatch a crew.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault

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Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council turns down controversial phone mast plan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Galway City Council has refused an application by Eircom to erect a 12-metre telecoms mast in a housing estate in Knocknacarra.

The local authority turned down the company’s application for planning permission to install the structure in the heart of Drom Óir over concerns that it would create a visual obstruction in a residential area – and would have a detrimental impact on property prices.

Eircom had also sought retention to keep a concrete foundation for the mast in situ after it was forced to abandon works earlier this year, amid protests from residents in Drom Óir and Leitir Burca. This was also rejected.

City planners issued the company with a warning letter in April to cease works after contractors on site drew the ire of nearby residents, who accused Eircom of seeking to install the mast ‘by stealth’.

A total of 26 letters of objection were submitted to the Council from residents of the two estate.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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