New €5m Portlaoise library now in doubt over lack of national funding

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Email:

lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

New Portlaoise library now in doubt over lack of national funding

The planned new Portlaoise library

Laois County Council says project will not proceed unless it gets a bigger government grant

The multi million euro library planned for Portlaoise is now in doubt after the construction price rose from €3.7 to €5 million, with local taxpayers to foot most of the cost.  

Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland has stated that unless national funding can be found, the project may be put on the shelf, because their budget will not stretch to it.

The library is to be built on the former Shaws shop on lower Main Street. The €5 million price includes the €450k purchase price paid by the council in 2013, demolition of the building, a new 1,500 sqm library and gallery and reading garden, and fitting it out with furniture, computers and books.

However there is as yet, only €1.65 million promised by dept of government towards it.

"The council cannot proceed unless it gets more grant assistance. It leaves too big a hole in this council. At the time of the budget we noted the grant of €1.65m and we had taken the decision to top it up by €1.65m. That is no longer the case. A big decision needs to be made before it goes to tender, because that indicates it is going ahead," said Mr Mulholland.

He said the price rose due to the economic growth.

"The cost of €3.2m is from a different era when the schedule of prices was somewhat lower," he said.

He was responding to a backlash from county councillors yesterday over the risen price, which they learned through a Leinster Express story, here,  instead of being informed by the council.

"Before we go into a grandiose project, we need to consider what €3 million would do in smaller projects, it's a lot of taxpayers' money," said Cllr Noel Tuohy.

"I don't think we are in a position to borrow €3.5 million, that money would solve the entire housing problem in Laois," said Cllr Willie Aird.

"We need further clarification, my first indication was in local newspapers," said Cllr Mary Sweeney, who works in Portlaoise library. 

Mr Mulholland agreed to report more cost details to them at the next council meeting in June.

"It is appropriate that we go into more detail. Should it remain the case that we are short, it would be difficult for the council to come up with the balancing fund," he said.