THE green light has been given for a major refurbishment of the Garda Water Unit in Athlone. The project has an estimated price tag of €1 million.
Longford/Westmeath TD and Minister of State, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran confirmed on Monday that planning permission has been approved for the refurbishment of the Garda Water Unit premises at Garrycastle.
The planning approval is for carrying out alterations to the existing structure, including the installation of workshop and office facilities in the existing Unit 1 and additional storage and drying facilities in the existing Unit 3. In addition there are planned modifications to the existing elevations, an exterior boat and vehicle wash down area and ancillary and associated site works.
When complete, the water unit will be based in a state-of-the-art building. The project will go out to tender in September or October and it is expected that work will start on the project before the end of the year or early in 2019.
“I am delighted it is proceeding. It is a long time overdue. They have been waiting for this for quite some time,” said Mr Moran. “The money is committed to make this happen.”
He said it is imperative that conditions for those working there are improved.
“We want to give it a permanent home. At the moment the conditions in which they are working are not up to standard. To get it up to standard is the priority,” he said.
The geographic location of the unit, in Athlone, is crucial, he said.
“It is vital that we have the water unit in a central location like Athlone, particularly with the Shannon,” he said.
He said that following the completion of this part of the project, he is hopeful that an additional section will be added to the unit's base, as more space is needed.
The unit provides an operational support and search capability to other garda units and outside agencies in marine environments and hazardous locations. In addition to the team based in Athlone, there is another team based in Santry, Dublin.
Athlone Sergeant Andrew Haran said this is positive news as the water unit is a crucial tool in the work gardaí do.
“It's great news. We would be very glad to have the water unit continue to be based in the Midlands. They are a very useful resource for us,” he said.