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CITY TRIBUNE

Management at City Hall rule out hiring park rangers

Dara Bradley

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Hiring park ranger-style community wardens this year to maintain and safeguard three city woods after hours and at weekends has been ruled out by management at City Hall.

At a local authority meeting last week, Chief Executive of Galway City Council Brendan McGrath said it would cost at least €320,000 to hire eight new staff to patrol the city’s wooded areas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said it was not budgeted for and hiring park rangers was not included in its strategic plan for this year.

“I can’t make it happen in 2021,” insisted Mr McGrath. But he vowed to report back to city councillors with a plan detailing how the Council might be able to provide more wardens to protect parks in future years.

Director of Services, Dermot Mahon, highlighted a number of potential problems with the proposal but Imelda Byrne, the Fianna Fáil city councillor, received cross-party support from a majority of elected members.

Cllr Byrne’s motion read: “Galway City Council agrees on the need for full-time on-the-grounds wardens seven days a week in the main city parks to ensure that they are safe and of high maintenance for the benefit of the public and of biodiversity.”

She explained that full-time wardens were needed at Terryland Forest Park, Bearna Woods and Merlin Woods.

Cllr Byrne, in introducing the emergency motion, said it was “upsetting” to learn that the Environment Department of the Council had an under-spend of €700,000 last year. She said Galway City Council should follow the lead of Fingal County Council and other local authorities who hire park rangers to patrol parks.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said that the Council needs a team of wardens, working out of office hours. Currently, he said, community wardens work 9am-5pm and there is no cover from 5pm to 9am.

He said it was his understanding that Gardaí were called to Merlin Woods last weekend, after a member of the public reported cars driving in the meadow, but they had not responded over an hour later.

Mayor Mike Cubbard (Ind) said more ‘boots on the ground’ were needed – when staff were appointed to Westside Sports Park, problems with anti-social behaviour disappeared.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said he was fully supporting the motion, and asked that the new wardens would cover city playgrounds, also. He said that a fortnight ago, people were partying in Mervue playground until 8am one morning, and left drugs paraphernalia behind.

Cllrs Donal Lyons and Noel Larkin (both Ind) expressed support for the sentiment behind the motion but they said it could have financial implications and a knock-on impact on other recreational and amenity services provided by the Council. They wanted a detailed report on the impact of passing the motion.

The Director with responsibility for parks, Mr Mahon, said it was not just a cost implication and hiring new staff needed to be approved by Government. Additional staff costs were not one-off costs and were recurring.

He said wardens didn’t deal with anti-social behaviour and he asked whether the proponents of the proposal were looking for “security guards”. Park rangers in other parks around the country were supplied by the Office of Public Works, he said, not the local authority.

Mr Mahon said there would be a “health and safety implication” of having staff out 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He said that the cost would be “excessive”, and amount to €300,000-€400,000 annually.

He said it was not clear from the motion whether councillors expected wardens to be based at the three woods or at City Hall.

If it was the former, then they’d need to provide accommodation, including toilets for staff, at the woods; if it was the latter, then City Hall would have to be accessible to staff 24-hours.

In reply, Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said, “you’d have to wonder why councillors would bother coming up with motions after listening to that response”.

He said that Mr Mahon had spoken for 15 minutes, and 14 and a half of those minutes was negative.

Cllr Crowe said his colleague had put “deep thought” into the proposal, which was “not about whether wardens can get a cup of coffee at midnight”.

Mr McGrath insisted there was no opposition to the motion from management but it couldn’t be implemented this year.

It will be debated again today at a meeting devoted to Notice of Motions.

CITY TRIBUNE

Outdoor dining plans unveiled for Galway City

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A new plan to temporarily pedestrianise city streets to create more space for outdoor dining this summer was published this week.

Galway City Council has said it is planning to close six streets for four months to boost the hospitality sector and attract more custom ‘back the West’ and to Woodquay.

It has also signalled smaller changes for Salthill and around Eyre Square.

“We’re looking to support businesses and people getting back to work. This is an opportunity for us to explore outdoor dining and we’re looking to trial these public realm initiatives,” Ruairí Lehmann, the City Council’s Tourism Officer told the Galway City Tribune.

“There is an appetite for this; the indications we have from Government is it is going to be an outdoor summer and these proposals will support that,” he added.

Chairperson of Galway Branch of VFI, Johnny Duggan of Taylor’s Bar on Dominick Street, said the changes would be very positive and boost hospitality businesses in all areas.

Already, he said as many as 30 businesses have applied for licences to trade outside in the area known as the Westend.

The local authority wants to close to traffic The Small Crane and Raven Terrace 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from June 7 until September 30. Car parking spaces will be removed from Small Crane and one lane of traffic would be kept open, one-way. A decision on which side is still under review.

The Council intends to make Dominick Street Lower (Galway Arms to Monroe’s) a single-lane one-way traffic street to facilitate additional on-street dining. It’s understood this has hasn’t yet got the backing of taxi drivers who have concerns about access to and from the Bridge Street rank but alternative taxi space may be offered at another location in the Westend to assuage those fears.

The Council has signalled its intention to close Dominick Street Upper and William Street West from Small Crane to Munster Avenue, at night only, between 6pm and 11pm, from Monday June 7 until Thursday September 30.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and for full details of the proposals for the city centre and Salthill, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief backs Salthill tidal pools proposal

Stephen Corrigan

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Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Council is to consider including a specific objective to restore the tidal pools in Salthill in the new City Development Plan – with around one-fifth of the submissions made in a public consultation backing this ‘no-brainer’ proposal.

In a report to councillors on submissions received, Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said consideration of the proposal would be based on technical feasibility, funding, staff resources, climate change considerations and environmental factors.

“A large number of submissions were received requesting the restoration of the tidal pools in Salthill as a year-round public amenity and recreation facility accessible to all. The restoration of this facility would be a huge asset to the city and complement the existing facilities that are available at Salthill,” Mr McGrath states in the document seen by the Galway City Tribune.

Support for the reviving of the Ladies’ Beach facility grew legs after an online petition attracted over 4,500 signatures.

Up to 100 of the 518 submissions made to the Council’s pre-draft consultation supported reopening the pools that have been out of action since the late 1970s.

(Photo: How the pools might look. Image Courtesy of Superfly Ireland)
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

GMIT in €9m bid for Galwegians’ Glenina grounds

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – GMIT has put in an offer – rumoured to be in the region of €9million – for the purchase of Galwegians RFC’s grounds at Glenina, the Galway City Tribune understands.

The offer will be presented for a vote at a Special General Meeting of club members set to take place on May 27.

The land at Crowley Park, located just two minutes’ walk from GMIT, had been earmarked for housing by property developer Neil Armstrong, and is zoned residential. However, this deal fell through.

A GMIT spokesperson told the Galway City Tribune they were “not yet in a position to comment”, while a spokesperson for Galwegians declined to comment.

It is understood that staff at GMIT were informed by the institution’s Vice President of Finance at a meeting this week that the ‘deal was done’ and that they awaited the rugby club’s signing off at its members’ meeting later in the month.

The sale would clear the way for the club to proceed with plans to develop a 22-acre site at Boleynasruhaun, Oranswell, where it is expected to make a second planning application after the County Council raised concerns over the scale of the development proposed initially.
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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