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Town Hall to open, then close again, for upgrade to heating

December 20th, 2022 5:50 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Skibbereen Town Hall is almost ready to open – but now the proposed heating system is already outdated. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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NO date has yet been given for the re-opening of Skibbereen Town Hall.

The amenity has not been accessible to the public since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social distancing guidelines coincided with the closure of the facility for works that have, so far, cost Cork County Council in excess of €300,000.

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF), who has been highly critical of the Council for not reopening it, has raised the matter at countless local authority meetings.

In November, he said he wanted a definitive answer at their December meeting or he intimated that he would ‘lose it.’

When he asked at the recent West Cork Municipal District meeting, a senior executive officer gave a detailed account of the work done and said the Council had been speaking with stakeholders ‘in relation to the use of the building in the New Year.’

The councillor was not happy with the reply. ‘That’s not what we want at all,’ he said. ‘I asked about the opening and I got a lecture about what went on inside there.’

MacDara O h-Icí had explained that the works to the town hall were to ‘improve capacity and wheelchair access to the building.’

He said the Part 8 planning process had been passed by the councillors based on the drawings.

Mr O h-Icí said the demolition work included the toilets in the town hall as well as groundworks.

There was also the construction of an extension to include a ticket office and a wheelchair accessible toilet, as well as associated mechanical and electrical works.

‘Because the town hall is a listed building, which requires the original features to be retained,’ he said, ‘the windows on the southern side of the building – which were in a poor condition – had to be replaced to the original design.’

The contractor also replaced the lintels in the windows and attic insulation was installed in the entire building to improve its energy efficiency. 

Repairs were done to the leaking roof over the balcony area. And some roof timbers in that area had to be replaced.

In addition, the contractor removed sections of slabbing and wet rot within the building. 

‘These,’ said the officer, ‘were all treated and replaced with new timbers and plaster slab, and the double doors to the balcony were replaced.

‘At the back of the building,’ he added, ‘there was the clearing of trees and vegetation. Drainage works were done at the rear of the building and the yard was finished off to a better standard.’

He said there was ‘an upgrade to the electrical wiring and fittings in the old building and repair to a structural crack in the wall at the rear of the building.’

The town hall was painted. In fact, Mr O h-Icí said three coats of paint were put on the entire building and gold leaf was put on the town clock to upgrade it.

Over €300,000 has been spent on the building, however, the heating system that was supposed to have been part of the contract was not installed.

Mr O h-Icí said it wasn’t done because what was considered state-of-the-art at the start of the year has changed, given the energy crisis.

The Council had considered a gas system but are now considering a heat-recovery system in its place.

‘The works have been substantially completed,’ said Mr O h-Icí. ‘We are ready to go, and we have been speaking to some of the stakeholders already in relation to the use of the building in the New Year.’

The councillors were told that the heating system will have to be done ‘sometime in the future’, which led to several members asking if it would mean that the town hall could once again be closed for construction works.

‘It seems almost scandalous,’ said Cllr Karen Coakley (Ind), ‘that after all the work that has been done it will have to be closed to do the heating – we want our town hall back.’

The chairman, Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) asked if the building could be opened and allowed to operate and Mr O h-Icí replied: ‘Maybe it is best to function as we are and do the heating down the road.’

Cllr Carroll, who was at one stage admonished by the chairperson for his remarks, pointed out that it was the former town council, in 2014, that put the funding aside for the work. ‘Yet here we are in 2022 and we are still not sure when the works will be finished. I have got tired of this conversation. We are going nowhere. It is not Carnegie Hall. What are we going to say to the people of Skibbereen when they ask us when it will be open?

‘There is no answer,’ he said, answering his own question. ‘We don’t know when it will be open, but we do know that it will be closed again.’

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