By Eoin Kelleher
TEMPLEMORE Town Council has given a provisional commitment to spend J20,000 over the next two years to upgrade the town’s lake with a new sluice gate that will control water levels and hopefully boost tourism in the town.
Councillors agreed unanimously to set aside J10,000 per year over the next two annual budgets for upgrading the lake. Cllr Mick Connell said he would like to see the J20k over two years “copperfastened.” Some 75% of the money could come from the LEADER programme. Cllr Valerie Young said the Lake was the “jewel in the crown” of Templemore. If the money wasn’t spent now, it would be a “missed opportunity for a generation”.
Cllr Connell said he would like to see the Lake Committee drive ahead with constructing a hard sluice gate. “For the first time, we could control the level of the lake. It could drop the level of the lake if there’s heavy rain. I personally believe it can be done by keeping the rates as they are, but our wishlist (in the budget) will have to be smaller.”
Cllr Marcus Wilson said the opportunity won’t come again. ”If we miss it, it’s gone, and gone for years.” J20,000 is about 2% of the budget over the next two years. “It’s a lot of money.” Cllr Wilson said the lake project funding could be achieved “without a huge adverse effect on the budget.”
Town Clerk Tom McGrath told Councillors they would have to come to a consensus about the shape of the budget before it’s published. “The budget will have to be pruned to the bone. We cannot have it both ways.”
Engineer Peter Fee said it would cost J8,500 per year to manage the lake after the improvements are made, to maintain the quality of the water.
Cllr Martin Fogarty said that if the money wasn’t made available, the lake would turn into a marsh within “seven or eight years.” “We inherited it. We have a duty of care on this one. Everyone is telling us about tourism. We could be the envy of most of Munster.”
Cllr Wilson asked if the J20,000 could be guaranteed in writing. Cllr Lily O’Brien said she fully supported the move. “The traders will benefit. I would not want to see an increase in rates by any means. If our Town Council budget will stay as is, I will go fully with it.” Cllr O’Brien urged the Councillors to not go “nick picking” over the budget.
Cllr Maura Byrne said “we must put the lake right.” There had been scientific and water reports published on the lake. Without a Council commitment, “all that paper will have been wasted.”
Cllr Valerie Young said there might still be space in the budget to make a rate reduction, even with the lake commitment. “We could take J5,000 from the Conference money and put it toward the lake, and it wouldn’t affect anyone. Business is tough at the moment.” “We’d all love to see a reduction in the rates, but we have to be realistic,” said Cllr Bourke.
Town Clerk Tom McGrath pointed out that Templemore has a rate of 55, compared to 60.13 in the County Council area. South Tipperary has a rate of 57. If the two County Councils are amalgamated, the South Tipp rate would probably be adopted, said Mr McGrath.
Cllr Jim O’Shea said Templemore had been very generous over the last few years in terms of setting rates. “Some business people I know have wanted to come within the town boundaries to avail of the rates.”
Town Clerk Tom McGrath said the Town Council will see a drop in income this year due to the economic crisis. However, the J10k commitment can be achieved “with a little pruning to be done here and there.”