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CITY TRIBUNE

New options for Black Box redevelopment to be examined

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The Dyke Road car park and Black Box: new plans are to be drawn up.

After receiving 12 expressions of interest about the redevelopment of the Dyke Road carpark and the Black Box, Galway City Council has conceded the project is too ambitious to go it alone, putting the kybosh on hopes of replacing the theatre by 2020.

Instead, the Council will use the €750,000 funds saved over three years for its redevelopment to appoint consultants to weigh up all options for the four-acre site and to draw up a definitive specification for the cultural building that will replace the Black Box – that may or may not move away from the Dyke Road.

The €3.5 million funding approved by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly for the project will now be split evenly between two other flagship developments – the overhaul of the pedestrianised zone in the city and the creation of a children’s creative hub at Lenaboy Castle at Taylor’s Hill, formerly St Anne’s Children Home being donated by the Sisters of Mercy.

“Direction is more important than speed. We’d like to go out to procurement on this and get the preparatory work done as soon as possible,” enthused Mark O’Donnell, Senior Executive Officer for Economic Development and Capital Projects at Galway City Council.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) said the report was full of buzz words but very little substance, noting there was just three-quarters of a million in the coffers to develop what could be a €100m project.

He stated that he was “really very disappointed by the lack of progress on it”.

“This will never be developed if we stay going on this path. It’s 14 months in the offing in what was to have been a cultural space. If you believe the Galway City Tribune, it’s going to be student accommodation.”

This prompted City Chief Executive Brendan McGrath to reply: “That’s the last thing it will be.” He later clarified that any large mixed development would have a 20% residential component according to the local authority’s own guidelines, but that could be hotel accommodation.

He said the complexity of the development – which would entail parking, possibly retail, commercial offices and some housing built over eight storeys – meant that “definitely, it won’t be developed by Galway City Council on its own”. A joint venture was currently emerging as the best route.

Mr McGrath suggested the deal may involve a land or building swap with developers or State bodies, noting the huge amount of interest shown in the site since news of the plan emerged in the 2020 bid book.

“It’s not about delaying or kicking the can down the road. The 12 or so submissions we received all proposed differing things, so this will look at the best mix and ultimately what best benefits the city first and City Council second,” he insisted.

“Liverpool only had their final project finished last year following the 2008 designation.”

This prompted councillors to throw up a long list of buildings which could be acquired for both the municipal library and a cultural centre – among them County Hall, the Courthouse, an ESB site, NUIG properties on Nuns Island.

Independent Cllr Donal Lyons formally proposed the five recommendations, including the appointment of a multidisciplinary team of consultants to lead it.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
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

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
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

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
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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