A manager is to be appointed to run and market the new art gallery and renovated castle “by the end of February or early March”, according to town clerk, John Walsh, after an update on the two facilities was given to councillors at this week’s annual budget meeting of the town council.
However, it is anticipated the €3.35m renovated castle will not be open until June, while the €3.4m art gallery is not expected to be open until next November, on account of some delays arising from additional and unplanned archeological assessments.
A first year salary of €38,000 was allocated for the new manager in this year’s budget under the recreation and amenity section, after which it is anticipated the position will become self-financing.
The meeting on Tuesday evening was told that proposals for the new board of directors for both facilities will be presented to the council at next month’s meeting.
Also on Tuesday evening, councillors were given detail of other monies allocated for the improvement of Athlone over the next 12 months.
The meeting was told how €389,000 - just over €1,000 per day - has been put aside for street cleaning in Athlone. This figure does not include litter warden costs. An additional €90,000 has been put aside for the Tidy Town committee, whilst a further €25,000 is to be spent on a single capital project that will improve Athlone’s tidy town prospects.
After claiming he had got a commitment on this point from Westmeath County Council, Cllr ‘Boxer’ Moran again demanded this money be used to install a “drop-down bin-site” for the bottle recycling bins at Fair Green, like the Ballinahown facility, as the present arrangement is causing a nuisance for the residents of John Paul Park, and that the related traffic was causing delays on Grace Park Road.
Cllr Paul Hogan supported him, and though Mayor Sheila Buckley Byrne and Cllr Aengus O’Rourke opposed it, county manager Danny McLoughlin clarified that Westmeath County Council had confirmed at its budget meeting last week that this money would be allocated for Boxer’s suggestion.
To continue the tidiness of the town, the council has budgeted an additional €5,000 for a CCTV camera dedicated to littering and fly-tipping, but that its location would be up to the CCTV company.
The meeting also heard how a grant of €466,000 has been received from the Office of Public Works (OPW ) to provide flood mitigation for Iona Villas, The Strand and the docks.
Earthen embankments and pumps have been provided at Iona Villas, while the development of a barrier and pump system is being carried out at the other two locations.