By Dan Walsh
There were robust exchanges concerning the delay in completing Gorey Town Park and the escalating cost of the project when members assembled electronically for the March meeting of Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District Council held by Microsoft Teams within the Covid-19 guidelines last Tuesday.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Joe Sullivan, who described the situation as ‘a mini-children’s hospital debacle’ pointed out that it was never the intention to hold anybody to the €1.2 million first mooted in 2016, but he added “in 2018 it went up to €1.8 million; in 2019; €2.3 million; 2021, €2.76 million”, and he noted an upward trajectory and was concerned at “where is it going to stop?”
“We are €1 million over-shooting the runway at this stage. Are we stopped at €2.76m?,” said Cllr Sullivan, who added; “Everybody is getting tired at this stage. We only lost from the 27th of March to the 18th of May – that was the official Level 5 lockdown for the construction industry. And work didn’t close again until the 8th of January.”
Cllr Pip Breen said it was anticipated that the Town Park would be completed in October and were assured that planting would be done before the weather broke, but what was promised was not delivered.
Cllr Diarmuid Devereux recalled a chat about an invitation for the CEO to come to a meeting to discuss issues, like the Town Park, He questioned if correspondence had been received and if there is a date set for a meeting with the CEO?
Cllr Devereux felt that some accountability was necessary and an explanation as to how a project escalates from 2019, or a bit further back, by €1 million in a town with a population of less than 10,000 people!
Cllr Devereux reminded members that there were issues around the original tender. “This project is about footpaths, open top soil, planting and a pretty limited number of structures, none of which are formidable.”
“If you take it that there are only around 2,000 families in the 10,000 people in Gorey and only a limited number of people will use this park on a limited basis – the cost per person per population of Gorey – shows that the figures are completely off the scale,” concluded Cllr Devereux, who stated that the people of Gorey needs to know what is happening!
Cllr Fionntán Ó’Suilleabháin said that it is a fact that in this country lots of big contracts is seen as public money – easy money – you basically name your price. “That has been the culture in the country with local authorities. We saw it with Courtown Pier Works, the Market House – the initial figure compared to the present figure, there is a massive difference – and there is no reason that the planting in the Town Park could not be going ahead right now!
Cllr Andrew Bolger agreed with his fellow councillors on the Town Park. “If we as county councillors ask for something extra out of Wexford County Council we are told ‘it is not budgeted for’, which we accept, but if a contract is signed at €1.2 million that is allowed to reach €2.7 million of taxpayer’s money it is very disheartening and the councillors frustrations in relation to this project are justified. “We must have accountability on these contracts because we are going to continue to waste taxpayer’s money when all we are trying to do is to give local people somewhere to go for a stroll and use the amenities for something they have already paid through their LPT (Local Property Tax),” concluded Cllr Bolger.
Cllr Donal Kenny agreed with the members. “Over €18 million came down from Dublin to Wexford last week to be divided up and there wasn’t a penny of it came back across the River Slaney,” he added.
Cllr Sullivan summed up the depth of feelings amongst members regards Gorey Town Park. “When you bring it down to layman’s language it is a case of; Start when you like. Finish when you like. Do what you like and charge what you like. Have we a start date, a finish date, a cost, the variable budget – have we all those things in writing from our contractor?
“We need to be told what is going on,” said Cllr Sullivan, while Cllr Mary Farrell agreed that there are many questions that need to be answered.