The current home of Roscommon County Council in the old courthouse.
A staunch opponent of plans for a new €18 million council headquarters in Roscommon has claimed county councillors will leave a legacy of negative equity for every person in the county for decades if the development goes ahead.
Businessman Gerry O'Dowd made the comments on the eve of a public meeting on the issue this Thursday, October 18 in the Hyde Centre, Roscommon town at 8pm. All councillors and public representatives have been invited to the event, organised by the Concerned Businesses and Households group, who are vehemently opposed to the civic headquarters proposal in its current form.
"€18 million is awful lot of money. The basic question is do we need it? Is there alternative accommodation? Can we afford it and can we pay it back,?" he queried, pointing out that in his view, there is plenty of vacant office space available in Roscommon town suitable for the task.
He cited one building in particular on the Golf Links road in Roscommon, currently used by a Government agency, with space for 250 people but just 60 staff are based there at present, Mr O'Dowd, who runs a factory in Ballaghaderreen understands.
Having met all public representatives, including the Athlone Area councillors to raise their concerns, Mr O'Dowd said what struck him was little councillors knew about the project cost and not one of them agreed that the location was proper and right.
"It's a bad location, it's not suitable for traffic, and there is no parking. It doesn't make sense," he argued. "They (council) are already nearly €8 million in debt, a building like that doesn't just stop at €18 million. If it went to up €23 million you would have a situation where they are over €30 million in debt. Who is going to pay for it," he added, pointing that householders and ratepayers cannot afford any more charges to meet massive loan repayments over 30 or 40 years.
The campaigner also believes now is not the time to plan a council headquarters when the number working in the local authority looks set to drop as a result of local government reform and centralisation of functions like water services in the near future.
"It would be nice to see a new headquarters but is now the time? Can we afford it and pay for it?" he repeated, ahead of the subject coming up for approval at Roscommon County Council's monthly meeting on Monday, September 22 next. It's thought the majority of members remain in favour of the project with just two, Cllr Martin Connaughton from Athleague, and Ballaghaderreen Cllr Michael Mulligan openly opposed to the proposal.
"They seem to be planning in a vacuum. No one in industry can do that," Mr O'Dowd fumed. "The legacy they seem determined to leave for every person in county Roscommon is negative equity," he claimed, urging the public to turn out to Thursday's public meeting to hear their case and the views of public representatives.