GRA ultimatum to Athlone Minister over station revamp

It's almost two years to the day since the €8 million Athlone Garda Station refurbishment project was first announced amid much fanfare.

The barracks revamp has yet to go to tender and several sources now believe this may happen before the end of the year, with the first half of 2018 now the latest estimate for work to actually begin on the project.
However, Moate officer Conor Staunton, who is the Westmeath representative of the GRA is sceptical of the dates given that no deadlines have been met to date over the last decade since the refurbishment was first mooted. He raised the prospect that at this rate the new station is unlikely to be done by 2020.
“It was supposed to be going to tender in the first three months of 2016 and work starting in the summer and there's nothing. Again in November of 2016, it was said it would be starting in January and there is still no sign of it,” he complained.
“Our issue is if it is not going to start, don't announce it,” Conor said, adding that local officers feel the garda station project was just used for political purposes. He said he was criticised at the time for raising question marks, unfortunately now he fears hehas been proven right.
He called on Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran to “put a push on it now” as the current station is old, out of date, not fit for purpose and has a number of health and safety issues.
“He is in government now. Enough is enough, members have had enough. Give us the tools to work with for modern policing,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Office of Public Works said the pre-qualification stage of this project has been completed.
“We are currently preparing the tender documentation which will be issued shortly,” the brief statement pointed out.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent on Tuesday, Minister of State at the OPW, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran said he can fully appreciate the criticism but a number of issues were encountered including a delay with the gas connection and parking, however, these have now been resolved and he hopes to have a start date shortly.
“The teething problems are over. I want it to start as soon as possible. It's well overdue. The time for talking is over. It's time for machines on the ground now,” he said.
Going forward, he believes only station projects that are ready to go should be announced as many were previously given the go ahead way too early.
The proposed new Athlone Divisional Headquarters will bring together two existing buildings from 1938 and 1945 respectively.The two buildings will be interlinked by a third building which “will resolve a variety of existing functional and technical issues,” the department previously indicated. A specialist Garda Water Unit will also be developed as part of the project.