Councillors push for more civic use of Courthouse

Councillors from Athlone are hoping that a new purpose can be found for the old Fire Station attached to Moate Courthouse after they turned down a lease application by Moate Boxing Club.

During Monday’s Westmeath County Council meeting councillors decided unanimously to turn down a request by Moate Boxing Club to return to the former fire station adjacent to Moate Courthouse. The club had been renting the building prior to a fire last October. The courthouse is now being refurbished at a cost of €500,000.

In a report sent to members of the council, county manager Pat Gallagher said that while the premises is small and extremely tight for a boxing ring, the club is happy to continue to use it. Having the lease could help the club obtain grant aid from the Boxing Association of Ireland, who require that the club have a minimum five-year lease on the premises before grant aid will be given.

The statement went on to say that attempts had been made in the past to secure more suitable accommodation for Moate Boxing Club. However, these were unsuccessful and it is considered that the most appropriate course of action at this point is to allow the boxing club to continue to occupy the former fire station in accordance with an appropriate lease.

Speaking after the meeting, Fine Gael councillor John Dolan said that it was felt that a boxing club was not the most suitable use for the building.

“We’re spending €500,000 on a new library for the ground floor of the courthouse; it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a sporting facility attached,” he said.

“The boxing club was always there on a temporary basis. Hopefully they’ll be able to find another premises, I’m sure the council will be amenable,” he added.

Mayor of Athlone Frankie Keena agreed that the refurbishment of the courthouse was the main priority for councillors. “We want to create a civic building or centre in Moate for the wider community to use. Perhaps the old fire station could be turned into a training centre for senior citizens, somewhere for them to take courses. It would be ideal for it to be used for training or office space... we’ll make a decision on that space and the rest of the courthouse at a later date,” he said.

The vote to turn down Moate Boxing Club’s lease application was unanimously agreed upon and no future on the fire station premises was made at Monday’s meeting.

Earlier this year Westmeath County Council committed to works at the old courthouse which includes the permanent relocation of Moate library to the site before the end of 2015. Along with the interior works, it is also planned to develop a plaza at the front of the building and make improvements to accessibility.

As part of the works, six carparking spaces at the front of the courthouse will be lost to allow for space to develop the plaza.

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