Flood repair fund for Athlone down by €250k - but no change to programme

Questions were raised at Monday’s Westmeath County Council meeting about funding for repairs to flood-damaged roads, after it emerged that the figure budgeted for the Athlone area has been cut by €250,000.

A Severe Weather Grant of €3 million from the Department of Transport had been allocated for Westmeath, with the council originally deciding that €2m of that would go to the Athlone Municipal District and €1m to the Mullingar Municipal District.

However councillors were informed on Monday that the distribution had been changed, and that €1.75m is now being earmarked for Athlone and €1.25m for Mullingar - prompting several Athlone-based councillors to question the reasons behind the redistribution.

“€2 million had been allocated, and the roads where the money was to be spent had been identified. What has now changed - where is the swap?” asked Cllr Paul Hogan (SF ).

Cllr Frankie Keena (FF ) said he was “at a loss” to understand the new breakdown of figures.

“Athlone was severely hit, and there are still other areas that need urgent addressing. To lose €0.25 million is unfair; this should have been discussed with the Athlone Municipal District first,” he said.

Director of services Barry Kehoe explained that the change was down to new information on the costings for the repairs.

“I am confident that it will cost a bit less than we put forward in our estimates, and I am hopeful we will get all the works done. This appears to be the best distribution of money, and there is no change to the programme of works.

“The €3 million allocation from the Department was against an estimated cost of repairs of €4.7 million, which was broken down into almost €3 million for the Athlone Municipal District and €1.7 million for the Mullingar Municipal District. These figures were put together at short notice by the district engineers. The Department subsequently gave €3 million. The district engineers and transport section attempted to fairly distribute this money and came up with a preliminary breakdown of €2 million and €1 million.

“When we started the work and costed each job it changed again slightly. Some works cost less than we expected. This is a work in progress and I’d expect further changes depending on the cost of each item of work, and we hope to get further money from the Department,” he added.

Cllr John Dolan (FG ) said it was important to have local consultation with residents on the works to be carried out, particularly when it came to raising road levels in certain areas.

“There is a lot of fear regarding the raising of the levels of roads. People are concerned that roads will be raised just so that we can gain access even if there is flooding. We don’t want the message to go out that this is a substitute for doing concrete work to alleviate flooding,” he said.

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