Confusion over €3m plan for County Hall revamp

by Aishling Conway

Plans to spend €3m to carry out works to the County Hall at Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are being met with questions and confusion.
Works were originally due to be carried out in 2013 but following objections to the cost it was abandoned.
The updated works – if they go ahead – will include many renovations such as a new council chamber with staff spectator gallery, a glazed bridge access from the first-floor level to the new chamber, a customer service area with office space and adjoining meeting rooms on the ground floor, and new ramped access to the building.
According to a spokesperson, the works will allow the council to become more efficient “through streaming all services and extending opening hours by 33 % through the new customer service hub”.
One local resident, who didn’t want to be named, wrote to The Gazette querying why so much money was being spent on renovating County Hall.
The resident said: “The current chamber was already altered a few years ago at substantial cost to accommodate all 40 councillors for this county.”
He added that it is in the “public interest to ask how public funding, which could pay for other much needed capital projects, is proposed to be spent”.
Local councillors are divided on the issue of spending €3m to renovate the council building.
Cllr Patricia Stewart (FG) said she is in favour of the proposed plans.
She said: “These plans are radically different from the previous plans. They’ll make a huge contribution to the accessibility of the council to the public. The new customer service area will mean you can go in anytime during office hours and speak to a human face to face about your issue.”
Cllr Chris Curran (SF) was also in agreement with the plans going ahead as he believes the current council chamber “fails to meet the needs of modern local government.”
Cllr Curran said this is a matter of equality as there are no means for a wheelchair user to independently access the council chamber.
“Wheelchair users, like anybody else have every right to have access to local government and the current building impedes them. Also, other council chambers provide visual and aural assistance to its visitors. Why shouldn’t DLR citizens with such disabilities not have equal access?”
Cllr Denis O’Callaghan (Lab) said that he agreed with the proposals because if “nothing were to happen, the council would have to deal with some deficiencies including leaks to the existing concourse roof.”
Not everyone agreed with the works going ahead, however, with Cllr Lettie McCarthy (Lab) saying she was still considering her position.
“I favour improving customer services but in my opinion, personal contact outweighs online service. As a council, we are very unfriendly to the majority of our customers who work 9-5 and unfortunately this won’t change.
“Many people wish to come in and view large planning files that could impact negatively on them but they can only do so if they take time off work. I objected to the original plans as I couldn’t justify such expenditure when we were experiencing cutbacks from all quarters.”
Cllr Hugh Lewis (PBP) said he has “real concerns about the new customer service centre”.
He said: “I objected to the last plans as they were exorbitant and unnecessary in my opinion.
“The new plans are similar but contain a new service centre. We have real concerns about the new ‘customer service centre’, especially the possible assimilation of the housing section into a one stop shop for all services.
“Spending such a vast amount of money without exhausting possible modifications to the current chamber is a mistake.”
Submissions on the proposed plans have been made to DLRCC and the council is currently processing them.
A report will go to county councillors at the June council meeting next month.

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