By Carmel Hayes
THE controversial new €6.5m library in Portlaoise is set to open in early summer, nearly ten years after the old Shaw’s site was purchased for the building.
“We hope to open to the public in late May or early June,” Laois County Council director of services Donal Brennan told the latest council meeting.
The long-delayed project saw costs more than double from an original estimate of €3m to a whopping €6.47m plus VAT, according to the most recent figure given by the council.
The building now nearing completion, on the corner of Main Street and Church Avenue, will contain not only a new library for Portlaoise but also a new headquarters for the county library service, as well as a community hub providing space for group meetings, workshops and a variety of cultural events.
Mr Brennan told the meeting on 30 January: “We expect the handover from the contractor in March. In April and May, we will start shelving it out and putting in books and equipment. We hope to open to the public in late May or early June.”
Replying to cathaoirleach cllr Thomasina Connell, Mr Brennan said that two other buildings in Portlaoise are also currently used for the county library service. The existing library headquarters, which is in leased space in Fitzmaurice Place, will transfer to the new building, together with archived material that is stored in Kea-Lew Business Park. The old Portlaoise library building, located on the first floor above shops in Lyster Square, is also leased rather than owned by the council.
The total cost of the library that was given in latest estimates does not include the cost of purchasing the former Shaw’s store for €450,000 in late 2013. When this purchase price is added, the final bill for the new library is almost €7m, or €6,923,449 plus VAT.
The county council’s head of finance Gerry Murphy said in March 2022 that €6,473,449 was ‘the best current estimate’ of final costs for the library. This was the last cost update given to councillors.
The reasons given for the spiralling costs range from Covid delays and construction price inflation to asbestos removal and dealing with oil-contaminated soil on the site.
The government is providing €5.687 million of the total cost of the library, with the rest paid from Laois County Council’s budget. The library was expected to open this winter, in the latest time estimate given last March.