01 Jul 2022

Portlaoise library 'negative publicity unfair' says councillor

Portlaoise library 'negative publicity unfair' says councillor

The planned new Portlaoise library

A Portlaoise councillor has defended the multi million cost of constructing a new Laois county library in the town.

The latest figures given by Laois County Council estimate that the new multi storey building on Main Street will end up costing €6.5 million plus VAT including books and furniture when it is complete next winter.

That is over double what the initial estimate was back in 2015.

Detailed figures and a history of the project were supplied following a request by Cllr Aisling Moran who has again criticised the costs.

"€5.687 million is paid in grants but regardless of where it is coming from it is being paid by the taxpayer and in my opinion it could be better spent. It is a ludicrous waste of money. Ongoing this project needs to be reviewed regularly.

"There are other projects to do. Portlaoise Panthers need a stadium, you could have put a library under the tiered seating," she suggested. 

She also queried how well the site was investigated before building, because of unforseen holdups found. 

Fellow Fine Gael Cllr Willie Aird defended the project.

"The negative publicity is unfair. I asked the Chief Executive about it on a number of occasions. It took a long time to get off the ground because we said we couldn't justify the cost. Then the department came back with another grant of €1.6 million. I'll go to my deathbed that we signed for a cost of €4.3 million. It was for demolition and building not fit-out. The only overrun was when construction was stopped by the archaeologist when they found what they thought was of huge historical importance. I told them it was the old millrace, to fuel Odlums mills. The whole site was closed, a dig took place and they found nothing. That made a €300,000 overrun. That's the extra. The fitout is completely different. 

"If you don't want to finish the library, when the keys are handed over pull the plug," he said.

The library was one of three projects on which Cllr Moran had requested itemised costings. The others were the Junction 17 National Enterprise Park and The Cube low carbon office building. 

The CEO John Mulholland said there was no "reluctance" on his part to give figures in the past on them.

"It is not right to say there was a reluctance, you have been informed several times in the last year or two. Bear in mind the times we are in. It has been very difficult for the construction industry. We are having a lot of people out in the last eight or nine weeks.

"Regarding the new library, the tender cost was €4.35 plus VAT is the contract signed here in December 2019. The gross cost was €4.937 and now it is at €5.3 million. Due to contamination of oil on the site. It was as good a site investment as any. 

"Despite the comments here, it is important to look at what a library does. It gives a huge amount of resources and is very inclusive. We have seen the effects libraries have on children who are disadvantaged, to use for study particularly where they don't have room at home to study. In the town centre we will have somthing acknowledging the status of Portlaoise as a growing town. I regard it not as expenditure on items but as an investment in our future. Future generations will benefit from it," the CEO said.

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