It was a case of pastures familiar at the inaugural meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District on Monday afternoon, as Cllr. Frankie Keen re-attained Mayoral status, the third occasion in six years in which he will fill the ‘first citizen’ role.
Addressing his fellow elected representatives within the Council Chamber, Cllr. Keena stated he was ready for the challenge which the year would bring, noting that the reconfigured District now encompassed a wider geographical area.
“The Athlone/Moate Municipal District now covers nearly half of the county stretching from Athlone to Rathowen and I would like to formerly welcome the residents of this extended area into this newly formed area.
“This is a huge geographical spread and it will take a settling in period for these residents as they now will be directed to engage with the civic offices in Athlone for council services instead of historically linking with Mullingar. As Mayor, I will ensure that this transition is seamless as possible and that every resident will receive a premium service. I do know that you my fellow Councillors and Executive will play their part and will not be found wanting in giving the relevant support where needed,” Cllr Keena commented.
Detailing his aspirations for the forthcoming term as Mayor, Cllr. Keena spoke of his desire to see progressive developments continue in Athlone and throughout the county.
“I am excited about advancing the three urban regeneration projects that were announced last autumn for Athlone to the next step this year. The development of the Loughaniskan site, the west side of town and the extension of the street enhancement towards Irishtown/Mardyke Street are projects that are so important for the overall development of the town as a regional growth centre.
“Athlone is drawing customers from a vast distance radius to the town for work, shopping and entertainment purposes, with the close working collaboration between the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone Municipal District, Athlone Chamber and Destination Athlone, being key factors behind the town’s positive growth.
“I am fully aware that we have not reached our full potential in relation to the tourism sector yet and I would like to see the extension of the Greenway to the Shannon completed,” Cllr. Keena continued.
The Mayor also expressed his thoughts pertaining to the development of relevant infrastructure to ensure the town continues to grow in tandem with its regional growth centre status.
“Regional growth centre status brings its challenges particularly in the areas of traffic congestion. Now that we own the Railway Field I want to see progress being made in relation to the provision of its long overdue link road and I am anxious to progress the plans for the link road from the Regional Sports Centre to Retreat Road.
“Any future road developments will be guided by the transportation study that we are presently working on with our colleagues in South Roscommon, but we must put an emphasis on alternative modes of transport to the car such as walking, cycling and public transport,” Cllr. Keena emphasised.
The Fianna Fáil Councillor noted the cohesive partnership which has developed with his colleaguesfrom the South Roscommon District as a joint retail study encompassing Athlone continues between both local authorities.
“We are working on a joint transportation study presently and will also be announcing a joint economic strategy later this year that will realise the potential development of Athlone as envisaged in the National Planning Framework 2040 plan.
All these plans will feed into the joint urban Area plan for Athlone that will be worked on early next summer. The county development plan is underway and there will be opportunities for the public to feed into this later this year,” Cllr Keena stressed.
Concluding, Cllr. Keena highlighted the ongoing need to focus on housing issues, also referencing future town twinning options which would be of economic benefit to the ever developing town.