By Dan Walsh
A delay in the completion of Gorey Town Park development project and the lack of governance around County Council contracts was described as “an unmitigated disaster” by the Cathaoirleach of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District Council, Cllr Joe Sullivan, at the February meeting held today with Microsoft Teams.
There was unanimity amongst members when the delay in completing the Gorey Town Park project came in the form of a presentation requested by the members on behalf of the people of Gorey who have been constantly expressing concern and wondering when the work would be completed.
Sean Meyler gave an update on Gorey Town Park telling the meeting that as the works were suspended when Level 5 restrictions came in there were approximately two months left on the contractor’s programme. Mr Meyler said that when works recommences on site we are looking at a minimum of two months to completion. Although he stated that it was unknown what impact the current lockdown will have on the efficiencies of the construction sector.
Mr Meyler said that when they went back on site at the end of May last year it took them a couple of weeks to find their feet again because of issues of supply and sub-contractor availability, so he brought some words of caution to the matter. The contractor is expected to be back on site on March 8th, which is a Monday.
One outstanding issue is landscaping as March is a deadline in the landscaping world and the bulb planting season has already been missed. So, he will be back in the winter season to get the planting done.
The original contract was to finish in January 2020. It is now 12 months behind and approximately three months away from a completion date. The project is facing a 15-month overrun in total. Covid 19 has been an issue.
Cllr Diarmuid Devereux recalled that when contractors were allowed work the amount of activity on the site was never on a scale that would reach the original deadline. “It is a great shame given the need for the facility in the town at this time that it is not available. Now we have another deadline that we cannot commit to the citizens of the town because it’s a matter that is completely out of the Council’s hands.
Cllr Pip Breen expressed disappointment. It was to be finished this time last year and there was a two-month overrun by the time lockdown came. “I am seriously worried that this will be done this time next year.” He wondered about the financial position saying the price of steel is up 50%, timber is gone up an equal amount, availability is an issue and labour is not available right now.
Cllr Andrew Bolger spoke of contractual obligations to Wexford County Council that should be honoured. He was also worried that they would be talking about this project this time next year.
Cllr Anthony Donohoe was displeased that it was 15 months late. Covid-19 took out two months. He wondered if there was any penalty clause, but it emerged later in the meeting, that a penalty clause did not exist.
Cllr Fionntán Ó Suilleabhain expressed disappointment at the delay on site. He stated that the planting of flower bulbs was hardly a dangerous pursuit and he had concerns about the Council picking up the tab.
Cllr Donal Kenny was disappointed as was Cllr Mary Farrell. She stated that this was not the first time to come across an issue where contractors had run over time. “We need to take on board that if contractors are coming in to major developments the Council has to ensure that the penalty clause is in place and that it is adhered to because it is the people of Gorey who are waiting for this park. “I agree with Cllr Kenny excuses are no good at this stage. This is not good enough,” concluded Cllr Farrell.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Joe Sullivan joined with all the members in thanking Mr Meylar for his presentation. “The honesty is heart-warming because as generally we get a kind of a gloss over everything, but you have been honest and frank in what you have told us today.”
Cllr Sullivan believed there is absolutely no governance whatsoever on County Council contracts. “In my six years on the Council we have had contracts – Courtown, the Town Park and The Avenue – and to say that any of them went according to the book would be stretching it. Unmitigated disasters in relation to the deliverance of projects and from the budgetary aspect the ratepayers will have to foot the bill.”
Cllr Bolger asked about the walking track been opened, but Mr Meylar replied that opening the walking track to allow public access was looked at, but it was found that it created a cul-de-sac, it would bring people all around the pitch to dead end and they would have to turn around and go back again.