Work is set to get underway within days on €140,000 renovation and rental of a school in Portlaoise which was offered to the Department of Education for free in recent years.
Laois VEC chief executive Anne O’Keeffe confirmed this week that a deal is nearly done to lease the Portlaoise CBS building for the next four years and nine months. The building will be used for all education delivered in Portlaoise.
Work will begin within a week on a €100,000 refurbishment while a further €40,000 will be spent on rent for the final two years of the lease. When complete the building will be used for literacy, community education, back to education and the guidance services. Post Leaving Cert Course will continue be delivered at Portlaiose College.
It is understood that the deal has been done through Portlaoise Catholic Parish and the Christian Brothers who have shared ownership of the site through a complicated historic trust arrangement which requires that the land can only be used for a certain purpose.
Ms O’Keeffe told VEC members in Rathdowney that a builder would begin work as soon as the lease is signed.
Doubts emerged earlier this year over fire safety issues. The building will have to be brought up to standard to meet fire, electric and other modern building regulations. No big structural work is need but it will redecorated.
“Quinn Reddin Construction was the successful tender and will be moving on site within the next week,” she said.
The project and cost involved were revealed when Ms O’Keeffe was quizzed on the costs by Cllr Willie Aird who did not object to the project.
He also asked about the length of the lease given the investment but Ms O’Keeffe told Cllr Aird that there was no clause in the lease which offered the VEC an automatic right to extend the lease. She told the councillor that it had received legal advice that no clause could be inserted.
The chief executive told the Leinster Express that the building would be used for literacy, back to education, guidance and other services.
Cllr Pat Bowe congratulated the VEC on the deal.
“I think it is a very worthwhile investment. It is a fine building and is in the middle of Portlaoise which is important. I have to congratulate the VEC on finding the funds,” he said.
VEC chairperson Mary Sweeney said she was looking forward to use of the building for education, adding that the facility was badly needed to meet the demand for training.
Ms O’Keeffe told Cllr Kathleen O’Brien, who welcomed the move, that car parking would be available for use on the site.
Ms O’Keeffe told Cllr Alan Hand that up to 400 people were training and the new facility would be used to centre training in one main location rather than three at present.
She said the VEC was “bursting at the seams” trying to accommodate people in existing buildings.
The building was offered to the Department of Education as part of covering the cost of compensating victims of abuse but the offer was turned down for legal reasons over the ownership of the site. The school has been vacant since the CBS moved to the Borris Road.