Cuts to finances and staff are seriously hitting Laois County Council’s ability to fix potholes and carry out other work in south Laois.
And the six Borris-in-Ossory electoral area councillors expressed anger over this at their September meeting in Clough Community Hall last Wednesday.
“There are staff cutting grass in and around County Hall when there are pot holes to be filled,” claimed Cllr John Bonham. “We need our area, which is equivalent to the size of Co Carlow or Co Louth to be tended to.”
Reacting to members, Senior Executive Engineer Michael Malone said the money had run out.
“When you’ve exhausted your funding you must stop. I don’t make budgets. It is a reserve function of the elected members to pass budgets. And if there is a demand from people for fundamental services then you’ve got to look to make cuts elsewhere,” he said.
Cllr Marty Phelan tabled a motion requesting that the ditches on all road fronts be cut back and Mr Malone informed him there was only limited funding available.
“50% of the work is complete and the remainder is being priced. The work will certainly not be as extensive as other years and it will be limited to making junction sight lines clear,” he said.
Cllr Michael Lalor received a similar reply to his motion calling for vegetation at all junctions to be cut back to give a better view to road users.
Cllr Marty Phelan wanted to know how much this work cost per hour? He said lorries kept the ditches around Ballacolla and Durrow trimmed but that certain areas needed to be done as they were school bus run routes.
Cllr Phelan also enquired about the clean-up of water cuts and gullies, and Mr Malone replied that this work is carried out when they can ‘but the frequency of cleaning is now curtailed due to reduced financial and personnel resources’.
Cllr Brendan Phelan’s request for the installation of a ramp at Mill Court, Borris-in-Ossory to slow down vehicles entering from Main Street was denied as Mr Malone pointed out, “There was no funding available.”
Cllr Phelan enquired, “Would it not be possible to erect a sign there or provide rumble strips. It is a blind corner and somebody is going to be knocked down and it is not a case of if it happens, it is when.”
Mr Malone suggested that councillors should ‘ring fence funding for ramps’.
Cllr Phelan was disappointed that it may not be possible to strengthen Baunaughra L55502 in 2012 due to insufficient funding.
“I thought this was a long way up the list of works that will be completed,” he stated, to which Mr Malone replied, “Certain roads have to go off the list and this is one of them. We can’t spend what we don’t have.”
Cllr Phelan called for road repairs before winter. Mr Malone said he wanted two patching units working continuously on pot hole repair but ‘this is impossible’ due to reduced resources.
“We fill potholes wherever they arise as quickly as we can but obviously the huge cuts to funding and the drop in road workers has resulted in significant delays in getting to all repairs,” he said.
Cllr Phelan said pot holes could stop people driving on roads. “There are crews out in neighbouring North Tipperary so why can’t we have crews out here?”
Mr Malone responded: “I realise elected representatives get it in the neck from the public over pot holes as we do. It is going to be a battle to repair all pot holes but we’ll try to do as much as we can.”