The seven councillors of the Portlaoise Municipal District have finally agreed on how to spend a discretionary budget of €140,000, with traffic calming top of the agenda.
Over half of the total amount is to be allocated on improving road safety measures in the county, €73,000. At County Hall last week, town manager Mr Michael Rainey revealed that besides traffic calming, the other four areas on which the money will be spent are €14,000 for community projects, €17,000 will be spent on footpaths, €29,000 on public lighting, and €7,000 on radar signs into towns and villages.
Mr Rainey confirmed that this was a total of €140,000 divided across the five headings. These five headings were previously suggested to the councillors by county manager, Mr Gerry Murphy, who advised on the best use of funds.
The councillors all agreed on the plan, with Cllr John Joe Fennelly proposing and Cllr Noel Tuohy seconding the motion.
“This will be money well spent and we should get full value for it,” said chairman, Cllr Jerry Lodge.
The councillors reached their decision last Tuesday (October 14), following an in-committee meeting from which members of the public and the press were excluded. The meeting was the sequel to a heated debate that ensued the previous week, when the seven councillors were unable to agree on how best to use the discretionary budget.
At that meeting, a suggestion was made by the county manager to divide the total €140,000 among the seven councillors for each to decide on their own priorities. This was met with trenchant opposition from Cllr Willie Aird, who likened the proposal to each councillor receiving “a slush fund” and said it would lead to local government being conducted like an “auction”.
At the same meeting, Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald suggested that all the councillors come together to devise a five-year traffic calming plan for the county, to get all estates improved.