Athlone Town Mayor Frankie Keena has welcomed last week’s announcement that businesses who had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have their commercial rate bills waived for three months commencing on March 27 and that the exchequer will pay an equivalent amount to each local authority to fund this initiative.
“This means that the affected business will not have to pay rates for those three months. This is an initiative for which I have been lobbying since lockdown commenced in order to assist our business communities in some small way who are really going through a very difficult time.
“I am aware of some businesses who are contemplating not reopening at all due to the financial hit that they are experiencing and therefore it is so important that every effort needs to be made to make sure this does not happen.
“It is only by getting our businesses up and running again that employment will be generated and subsequently the economy will pick up,” Mayor Keena remarked.
Financial support to the local business sectors is key and the Town Mayor confirmed that if businesses have prepaid their rates for the calendar year they can either avail of a rebate or a credit note for future rate bills.
“I also welcome the thought process behind the Restart Fund which gives a maximum grant of €10k to certain businesses who fit the criteria. Under this scheme the Department states that this funding is in recognition of those businesses who have maintained engagement with their staff and would be linked to ongoing employment of staff.
“Businesses will receive no more than the equivalent of their 2019 rates bill and it is capped at €10k. I do feel that there is a need for more work and clarity on how this will be rolled out as they are a number of businesses who did not avail of the wage subsidy scheme for various reasons and they should not be forgotton about,” Cllr. Keena concluded.
Athlone Urban Regeneration projects to progress
Athlone Municipal District and Westmeath County Council remain focused upon progressing the three urban regeneration projects planned for the designated growth town.
These projects include the extension of the street enhancement works from Church Street to the former site of O’Neill’s Pub opposite Dunnes Stores with the paving process rotating to conclude at Church Street.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, noted that the purchase by the Council of the prime site upon which O’Neill’s Pub once stood is key to advancing this particular project within the Athlone Urban Regeneration scheme.
“The Council have made significant progress in acquiring the site where O’Neill’s pub use to be and it is presently going through the legalities. By acquiring this site the local authority will then be able to provide improved pedestrian and vehicular movements at this key junction in the town and at the same time enhance the location from a visual perspective,” Cllr. Keena stated.
The second regeneration project includes the development of the Loughaniskan site beside the Department of Social Welfare offices, the intended plan being to enhance the location with a mix of office, retail and residential space.
The third detailed urban regeneration project incorporates the Connaught side of Athlone and will see the enhancement of the road and footpaths from Main Street through to Connaught Street. It will also include a comprehensive programme of works on the canal and Ranelagh areas, to include the NO.1 Gun Battery.
“I am delighted, that during my term of Town Mayor office, these three major urban regeneration projects, which will enhance the landscape of Athlone, have now been allocated a dedicated project team from Westmeath County Council to allow them progress to the next stages.
“The Council had advertised for consultants to do this work and now they are presently assessing the applications for this position.
“It is so important even during these difficult times that we keep focused on the delivery of these three major regeneration projects for Athlone as they will contribute enormously to the economic development of the town,” Cllr. Keena concluded.