The entire available budget for Newbridge Town Hall will be spent on conserving the building rather than renovating it, writes Conor McHugh.
According to plans presented by an architect to the members of the Town Council on Tuesday night, March 12, it will cost €500,000 to replace the roof, the windows, remove plaster inside that is eroding the original paster, and generally landscape the perimeter.
But after all that, the Town Hall still won’t be in a useable by either the people of Newbridge, the Town Council, or any other entity
Shane DeBlacam of architects DeBlacam and Meagher outlined figures for each element of the project and said that they were all accurate and had been produced by a quantity surveyor.
He explained that part of the difficulty facing anyone who takes on the project is that Newbridge Town Hall is a protected structure, and that the historic fabric of the building needs to be maintained.
However, the local councillors were aghast at the idea of spending all that money, and still not being able to use the building.
“I thought we’d get more for €500,000 than that,” Mayor Murty Aspell said. “We’ve been here for so long trying to make progress on it. And I said when I became Mayor that it was my priority.”
Cllr. Pat Black reminded the Mayor later that that had been a priority of every Mayor for the past 20 years.
“I really have to wonder if it’s good value for money?” the Mayor asked.
Cllr. Fiona O’Loughlin thanked Mr. DeBlacam for his work, but said she wouldn’t be happy to spend all that money and not have a usable building afterwards.
She wondered if certain parts of the project, such as the landscaping, could be postponed.
Mr. DeBlacam insisted that some elements definitely needed to be done. He described the windows, for instance as the ‘sine qua non’ of the project.
Cllr. Pat Black said he found it very hard to get his head around.
Another aspect of the issue that exercised the councillors was that fact that Newbridge Town Council will, over the coming years, cease to exist, and they were anxious to leave some sort of legacy of having tried to bring new life to the Town Hall.
Striking a conciliatory tone, Cllr. Willie Hamilton acknowledged that the members didn’t want to take a “sticking plaster approach to the project”, and noted that regardless of what was to come of the Town Hall in the coming years, the work being proposed by Mr. DeBlacam was necessary anyway.
He said it could be seen as “phase one” of a larger project which would eventually see the building return to use.”
“It’s a holding position,” he said.
The members ultimately concurred and agreed to move forward with the project on that basis.
On a related matter, the councillors have decided to meet with a delegation of potential users of the Town Hall.