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€2 million spent on six Traveller homes

STOVES and heating systems had to be replaced at six council-owned homes, which are just a decade old, at a cost of about €45,000, it emerged this week.

A meeting of North Clare Electoral Area, councillors heard that over €2 million has been spent on six Traveller accommodation units in Ennistymon and it would cost a further €100,000 to install CCTV at the site.

According to figures from Clare County Council’s housing section, the initial construction of St John’s Park in Ennistymon was €1.7 million in 2003. Maintenance costs to date have been “in the region of  €10,000 per annum. However, this will rise to €45,000 in 2013 due to the replacement of heating systems and kitchen units in the six houses.”

Fires at two houses in the development caused a total of €85,000 worth of damage, according to the council.
“Refurbishment costs for the two fire-damaged houses are estimated at €25,000 and €60,000,” Niall O’Keeffe, administrative officer in the council’s housing section, told local representatives at a recent area meeting.

He added that on top of this, there was loss in rental income while the houses were being refurbished and increased insurance premiums.

Councillor Bill Slattery asked the council to provide a detailed report on the costs to date arising from the development and called for a full-time caretaker to be employed across Ennistymon Traveller accommodation sites. He also asked how much it would cost to install CCTV at St John’s Park.

“St John’s Park, Ennistymon, constructed in 2003 at an all-in cost of €1.7 million, comprises six houses, a caretaker’s office and wastewater treatment plant. Typically, maintenance costs are in the region of €10,000 per annum. However, this will rise to €45,000 in 2013 due to the replacement of heating systems and kitchen units in the six houses. Currently, there are two caretaking staff, down from three in 2012, assigned to Traveller accommodation schemes and the cost of this service, attributable to the three Ennistymon sites, is €27,500 per annum. Refurbishment costs for the two fire-damaged houses are estimated at €25,000 and €60,000. Based on the costs incurred in the CCTV project at Beechpark (Ennis) and Ballymurtagh (Shannon), it is likely that such a scheme at St John’s Park would cost in excess of €100,000. These costs vary considerably, depending on site conditions and the communication technology required,” Mr O’Keeffe stated.

Councillor Slattery said residents in nearby Dough and Deerpark West are at “breaking point” and called for the closure of St John’s because it is “becoming a ghetto”.

The Dough and Deerpark West Residents’ Association wrote to Councillor Slattery calling for “the immediate closure of the site”.
They complained about “refuse blowing off the site onto the public road” and about “almost nightly anti-social behaviour at these houses and the gardaí are being called to the site on a regular basis”.

The letter claimed horses were grazing on the landscaped area outside the site and that there were regular fires in the area.

Residents claimed the Traveller Accommodation Programme “is an abject failure and should never be repeated”.
“This site is an example of what Traveller accommodation should not be,” the residents stated, blaming Clare County Council.

Councillor Richard Nagle pointed out that St John’s Park had won an award shortly after it was opened but since then “it has been all downhill”.

“The appointment of a caretaker won’t change what is going on in Deerpark or in other sites, unless people realise that Clare County Council cannot continue spending money with nothing to show for it, except constant deterioration and continued difficulty,” he said.

“The time you keep throwing money at a problem is over,” Councillor Nagle said.

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