BADLY-needed new fire stations for Stradbally and Rathdowney are still on the back burner, despite repeated appeals.
The latest meeting of Laois Co Council was told that management ‘will keep chipping away’ in a bid to get funding for new stations in both towns, where firefighters are struggling with cramped and outdated facilities.
Chief executive John Mulholland said that the council has made applications for capital funding for both towns over the years, but has not been successful. He said: “The relevant government capital programme does not have much allocated to it, but we will keep chipping away at it. We did get small grants in relation to health and safety measures, but we have to wait for capital funding before new stations can be built.”
Mr Mulholland was responding to cllr James Kelly, who said the existing fire stations in Stradbally and Rathdowney are “not fit for purpose” and must be replaced as soon as possible. Asking whether plans are with the department of environment, cllr Kelly pointed out that sites are available in both towns and plans should be expedited with the department.
It is nearly 20 years since a site was identified for a new fire station in Stradbally. The existing facility is small and cramped, despite the fact that it is the second busiest fire station in Laois and serves a huge area that includes Athy in Co Kildare.
Annual figures for fire station callouts consistently show that Stradbally is the county’s busiest fire station outside Portlaoise and serves a large rural area that includes Vicarstown, Crettyard, Portlaoise and sometimes as far away as Carlow, because the station is on the N80.
The county council identified a suitable site in the early 2000s at the council’s old eastern area office, beside the Civil Defence base. Site layout drawings for a new fire station were produced in early 2009, but then the recession hit, bringing severe cutbacks on capital projects.
According to a Laois County Fire and Rescue Service report produced in April 2018, a request was submitted to the department for new fire stations in Rathdowney and Stradbally, along with upgrade works for Mountrath and Mountmellick. When the 2016-2020 fire service capital programme was announced in February 2016, the Mountrath and Mountmellick upgrades were included, but neither Rathdowney nor Stradbally made the list. More than three years later, there is still no white smoke on fire station plans for either town.