Salt shortages in Westmeath may be a thing of the past next year, if an appeal to the National Roads Authority (NRA ) for an extra storage facility in Athlone is successful, it was revealed at the first Athlone Town Council meeting of the year, held earlier this week.
This came to light after Cllr Paul Hogan was unsuccessful in his move to re-decentralise salt purchasing back to the county authorties, in the wake of the recent big freeze.
He put forth the motion that the town council, in conjunction with Westmeath County Council “plan ahead of possible freezing conditions by purchasing salt and grit earlier in the year”, and was supported in this endeavour by Cllr Mark Cooney who pondered “whether it would be better to revert to the previous situation where local authorities got in their own salt supplies”. Both councillors had been the recipients of a sizeable body of complaints about the condition of local roads over the last month.
Director of services for the town, Barry Kehoe, pointed out that though both local authorities “plan in advance for winter maintenance on public roads”, any independent salt purchasing was not possible as this was still a national task performed by the NRA, and Mr Kehoe felt this was the best way to continue.
“What if we ran out and couldn’t source any more on our own?” posited Mr Kehoe, reminding those present that it was less than three weeks ago that the nation watched with bated breath as TV cameras prowled various southerly docks for the arrival of those elusive Polish and Maltese salt ships.
“It would be unacceptable for someone driving from Dublin to Galway finding different road surfaces in different counties,” pointing out what would be likely to happen if there wasn’t a national strategy.
He did offer some solace to the gathered councillors and their heavily battered ears, however, when he told the meeting that Westmeath County Council had applied for funding from the NRA for an additional salt storage facility in the Blyry industrial estate on the town’s eastern reaches, “but it has not been granted yet”.