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CITY TRIBUNE

Trying to keep up with Zoom Council meeting

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

Monday’s Galway City Council meeting, which took place on the video conferencing app, Zoom, was to last no more than one hour and 55 minutes.

Even though it was a remote meeting, three participants shared a room for it.

Mayor Mike Cubbard, Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, and Meetings Administrator, Gary McMahon, sat socially distanced in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Elected members, other staff and media tuned in remotely from their homes.

“Thank you, Mayor, just trying to keep up,” said a breathless Gary McMahon about two-and-a-half hours into the supposed two-hour meeting.

The delayed response was to a query from Mayor Mike as to whether Gary was okay. Moments of excruciating dead air filled the Zoom call before the reply came.

Gary wasn’t the only one finding it difficult to keep up, in fairness. But there were mitigating circumstances.

He was one of the three amigos – along with Mayor Mike and Brendan – in the same room, when it was informally agreed to extend the meeting beyond 115 minutes.

For his own safety and to comply with Covid-19 public health guidelines on social distancing, Gary left the Chamber, and dashed upstairs to his office to facilitate the remainder of the meeting. Mayor Mike stayed put and Brendan retired to his office.

After 15 minutes’ recess, with all three men marked safe and Zooming in from separate rooms, the meeting resumed, and it was easy to see why Gary McMahon was flummoxed.

Firstly, he’d forgotten to bring his rule book of Standing Orders upstairs with him. And elected members weren’t exactly helping either, with contradictory voting on whether to formally proceed with the meeting they had already informally agreed should proceed, in order to vote on whether it should proceed proper.

Before the break, Martina O’Connor (Green), called for the meeting to be stopped and adjourned until next Monday. Collette Connolly (Ind) agreed; the 115 minutes was up. John Connolly (FF) said okay but only if it went ahead in Leisureland, not on Zoom.

If three people could socially distance in a room to facilitate a Zoom call, 18 councillors plus staff could socially distance in a room that normally holds hundreds, he argued.

Brendan McGrath said the HSE advice was that physical meetings should not happen during lockdown and at a time when the UK variant was spreading fast.

Noel Larkin (Ind) wanted to keep going on Monday. John Connolly supported him.

The 115-minute time limit had passed when a vote was called. Gary McMahon said it couldn’t be taken because, by then, they were well over the health and safety time-limit for meetings. They adjourned.

On resumption, they voted on Larkin’s amendment to keep going. Twelve for; five against. The amendment carried and became the substantive motion, and they voted again on it. This time it passed 15 to one (Collette). Mike Crowe (FF), who voted against the first time, had left. Donal Lyons (Ind), Martina and her fellow Green Niall Murphy voted for the meeting to proceed, even though seconds earlier they had voted against it proceeding.

Confused? Finding it hard to keep up? Now you know how the Meetings Administrator felt.

(Photo: Meetings Administrator Gary McMahon)
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

CITY TRIBUNE

Allegations over Galway homeless hub that’s nominated for award

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A unique social housing development in the city, which has been nominated for an award, was the subject of complaints and allegations by a resident living there.

The Westside Modular Family Hub has been shortlisted for the Irish Council of Social Housing Allianz Community Housing Awards 2021.

Opened in May last year, the purpose-built family homeless service was developed by Galway City Council and Peter McVerry Trust with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and the Housing Agency.

The 15 units were installed at a cost of €2 million after what Galway City Council described as, “extensive public consultation and engagement with local residents and local representatives in advance and during the project to ensure all issues of concern were addressed”.

In a press release announcing the accommodation was nominated for an award, the City Council said that, “there is strong support from the local community for the development”.

It has been nominated for an award, which is determined by public vote.

However, it has emerged that at least one resident of the hub complained to the City Council about anti-social behaviour.

The resident made allegations of drug-taking, late-night house parties and drinking, and fighting earlier this summer.

The resident detailed an alleged attack in which a woman bit another woman’s shoulder and an ambulance was required.

The complainant also said that families were not being moved-on to longer-term accommodation within six months.

The complaints were made to the Housing Department at City Hall and it’s understood they were referred on to the service-provider, Peter McVerry Trust.

A Peter McVerry Trust spokesperson said: “The service offers good quality accommodation and professional supports to homeless families. Since opening the service in May 2020 we have supported 28 families, comprising of 38 adults and 60 children and helped 13 families move into housing with a further move-on expected in the coming week.

“From time to time issues do arise within the service, and PMVT staff will speedily and assertively respond to such issues to support and protect all residents as best we can. We have 24/7 staff supports on site, intensive key worker assistance and household specific care plans in place. Ultimately, our priority for each family in our care at Westside is to secure a housing pathway for them in order to exit homelessness.”

Asked for comment, a City Council spokesperson said: “I am advised by colleagues in the Housing Directorate that any issues that may arise in the Hub are dealt with by Peter McVerry Trust who are the service providers of this facility and a service level agreement is in place to deal with any issues that may arise.”

When the 15 units were installed in 2020, City Councillor Colette Connolly highlighted at a Council meeting that there was a leak in the roof of some of the homes. The Council confirmed “water ingress” in windows in a number of the units, which would be rectified by the supplier at no additional cost to the local authority.

Announcing the award nomination last week, the Council said the hub was designed to “temporarily house families while they seek a long-term solution to their housing need,” with the assistance of the Peter McVerry Trust management who are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It features 15 own-door two-bed and three-bed units, each with a kitchen, dining space and bathroom. There is also an on-site playground.

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CITY TRIBUNE

New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval

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Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.

The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.

“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.

“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.

The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.

Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.

The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.

Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.

“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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