Questions raised over Council’s footpath spending

Cllr Paul Connell.
Longford Town Council are planning to spend more than €150,000 on upgrading county town footpaths despite them being owned by Longford County Council.

Longford Town Council are planning to spend more than €150,000 on upgrading county town footpaths despite them being owned by Longford County Council.

Under proposals released to elected members at last week’s monthly meeting, the urban authority has set aside €158,000 for the works before its disbandment in 2014.

Administrative officer Mark McNerney also informed eight of the council’s nine representatives in attendance that the council paid out €200,000 carrying out similar improvements along Ballymahon Street, a pathway also owned by Longford County Council.

The revelation drew mixed responses from councillors, especially after Cllr Paul Connell said it was his understanding somewhere between €10,000 and €12,000 would likely be drawn from local authority coffers at county level.

“There is an ongoing issue with the county council and myself over this (footpaths debate),” he admitted. “They have some funds, but it’s small so this (Town Council commitment) is great.”

If Cllr Connell appeared eager to welcome the prospect of sizeable monies being ring-fenced, others were not so enamoured.

Cllr Tony Flaherty said the figures involved raised serious question marks at a time when local authorities are under ever mounting financial pressures.

“It is a county town, it is a main street and we are funding €158,000, nearly 16 times more than what the county council are giving for it. I don’t know about that?” he asked in a raised voice.

“Why are we covering the cost of their (county council) streets? Why is a parent body depending on the junior body to bail them out? €200,000 for one street and €158,000 for part of another street? It is owned by Longford County Council. I think it is a disgrace that we have to pay that for a street that Longford County Council owns. I know the footpaths have to be done, but we shouldn’t have to foot the bill for another local authority.”

Cllr Gerry Warnock agreed, describing the situation as “ridiculous”. He did however give his backing to the €1.5m in cash reserves built up by the council, the bulk of which he said would help enhance the town by way of various projects in the long term.

Sitting across from him and in the Fine Gael benches, Cllr Denis Hughes said precisely which local authority picked up the tab for footpath works was immaterial.

In an effort to bring clarity to the debate, Town Clerk Dan Rooney said one reason for the gross discrepancies between both council’s funding commitments was largely down to differences in relation to policy differences.

“The County Council would consider a concrete footpath as sufficient whereas we (Town Council) would differ in town centre streets by putting in brick. We would also provide undergrounding and decorative lighting. The amount of money that the county council would spend might be one quarter of what we would spend,” he explained.