VEC rents empty school with timber problems

Nearly six months since a lease was signed to rend a former school in Portlaoise for adult education not a single class has been taught in the building.

Nearly six months since a lease was signed to rend a former school in Portlaoise for adult education not a single class has been taught in the building.

Last summer Laois VEC signed a lease to Church authorities to rent Portlaoise CBS which dates back to 1847. It had taken three years to get to the point where a lease could be signed.

Over the past few months extensive work has been carried out to prepare the building involving substantial investment of taxpayers money.

But now it has emerged that morrefurbishment work on the old Christian Brothers School in Portlaoise has stalled due to a problem with the woodwork.

The Leinster Express understands that there is an infestation of timbers in the building.

The VEC leased the building for six years last summer and hoped to be able to move into the building by last Spetember.

Adult Education Officer, Joe Cunningham informed a recent meeting of Laois VEC that the closing date for tenders for the woodwork problem had to be extended, due to the complexity of the work.

“A more detailed pricing document had to be put together due to the complexity of the work. We hope that this would have helped with the evaluation of the work needed and will represent better value for money for the VEC.”

Mr Cunningham said the closing date had passed for tenders and he hoped to open them the following week.

“We are anxious to award the conctract as quickly as we can, there is six to eight weeks work involved and once that has been completed, we can finish the final kitting out of the building.

“Last summer, we got 95% of the work on the building completed, there was some electrical work that couldn’t be finished until the problem with the woodwork is sorted,” he said.

Cllr Kathleen O’Brien asked if the building would be ready by Easter.

The Adult Education Officer said he hoped it would be ready shortly after Easter.

“We will be almost a year into the lease at that stage, and we are conscious of that. Once the contractors are finished we hope to move in as soon as possible.”

Cllr Willie Aird asked about parking in the yard of the school and Mr Cunningham informed the meeting that there would be some parking for staff and students in the yard, once the prefabs have been removed.

Cllr Mary Sweeney, who is also chairperson of the VEC said she was looking forward to the opening of the building.

“It’s great to see the building being used,” she said.

It has been three years since Laois VEC first looked at using the CBS building, with substantial delays in 2011 to bring the building up to meet the fire and safety regulations.

Laois VEC agreed the lease in July 2012, and at the time planned to spend €150,000 on refurbishments. CEO Anne O’ Keefe told the VEC committee at the time of signing the lease that a six year lease would “justify our spending on the building”.

The project has suffered a number of delays and since the lease has been agreed, the building’s opening has been postponed a number of times. The building was meant to be ready for use before last Christmas but this has now been extended until after Easter.

The Department of Education rejected an offer to take ownership of the school as part of the deal between the religous orders and the State over compensation child abuse.

The State took to €1 million.