A NUMBER of councillors backed a call for an investigation into the Cluain Airne saga at this week’s meeting of Shannon Town Council.
The affordable housing development at Cluain Airne was controversial before a brick was ever laid but became even more so when work stopped on it last year. Work still hasn’t resumed and at Tuesday’s meeting, a date still could not be provided for the resumption.
There were some frank exchanges at the meeting involving town manager, Bernadette Kinsella and Councillor Gerry Flynn, with the independent councillor refusing to withdraw certain comments he made, which she objected to.
The meeting heard that €15,000 has been spent on security at the site, with another €75,000 spent on additional costs, including surveying and consultants’ fees.
Councillor Flynn and Sinn Féin Councillor Cathy McCafferty both put down motions regarding the situation.
In the written response from Ms Kinsella, she outlined where the project stands.
“Following liquidation of the initial contracting company and based on the best available information at the time, the council expected to be in a position to accept the guarantor’s nomination at the start of 2011. Based on experience to date, the process to secure a completion contractor has taken much longer than all stakeholders reasonably expected. The estimated completion period from commencement on site by the completion contractor is approximately 16 weeks.
“The tender process to secure a completion contractor was completed on February 17, 2011 and the council is currently awaiting a nomination from the guarantor.”
She stated the funding arrangements for the completion of Phase 1 are not affected by the liquidation process and any additional costs associated with the process would be met by the guarantor.
With regard to costs at the site her report stated, “Security costs to date are approximately €15,000. Additional costs in the region of €75,000 have also been incurred to date by the council-surveying, site security, consultants fees and so on. These costs are recoupable from the guarantor. The value of the bond does not automatically transfer to the council. Any additional costs incurred by the council arising from the liquidation process are recoupable from the guarantor and will be claimed against the bond.”
Last November, councillors were told that it was realistic that work on phase one of the project would be completed by late spring of this year. However, work has not resumed as of yet.
Councillor Flynn criticised the manager’s report. “There are just two questions I want answered; when is the start date and when is the finish date? It’s a small site with 22 houses. The last report was aspirational and there’s not a lot more in this.”
He claimed the level of anti-social behaviour on the site is “unbelievable”.
Councillor McCafferty said she is disappointed with the response. She said there has been “a crater in the road so big that a car could have fallen into it”.
Children aged as young as five have been swinging from scaffolding, she claimed, which she said showed security at the site has not been effective.
Councillor Sean McLoughlin said residents should be told what is happening, while Councillor Greg Duff said they are entitled to know when all work would be finished.
Labour’s Tony McMahon said he has been telling people not to take notice of dates being given by the council. “The only thing that’s saving my credibility is that I’ve consistently said not to take any notice of anything that’s said and it has proved to be pie in the sky.”
He said he knew when work started that the development would not be completed in the time envisaged.
Councillor Patricia McCarthy said it is very important to get work done and get people into the houses.
Fine Gael’s Mary Brennan said the residents have had to put up with a lot. “The residents are living their worst nightmare, with anti-social behaviour and promises not being delivered.”
Responding to some of the concerns raised, Ms Kinsella said she is frustrated with the delays, which are a drain on the local authority’s resources and a nuisance for residents, adding that there have been significant expressions of interest from people who want a home.
She said the council had hoped to accept a tender in January but it had taken much longer than the local authority had been led to believe.
Ms Kinsella explained the guarantor was required to arrange 24-hour security. She also said the bond would not actually be handed over to the council but that the council would make claims from it for any cost associated with the termination.
Councillor Flynn responded to the manager claiming the county council has to take the blame for the situation. “The buck rests with Clare County Council. They’re the people assigned to do the job.”
He also said he would be asking the county manager to carry out an enquiry into the matter and that if the request is not granted, he would go to Government.
Following comments by both Councillor McCafferty and Councillor Flynn, the town manager said she completely rejected any suggestion that she had misled the members.
She requested that Councillor McCafferty and Councillor Flynn withdraw certain remarks they had made and while Councillor McCafferty complied, Councillor Flynn would not.
However, he insisted the controversial remarks were not personal, something Ms Kinsella did not accept, saying this claim was “disingenuous”.