Water and Sewerage Schemes - Fire Stations.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 188 No. 12

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Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan I welcome the Minister of State. I raise the question of the inadequate facilities available at the fire station in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny. The station is a workplace for 12 firemen. It houses two fire tenders and covers an area that extends across south-east Kilkenny and south Carlow, which is a very large catchment area, much of it sparsely populated. The problem from a service provision viewpoint is that the facility is hopelessly inadequate in this day and age. The original building was constructed in the 1940s and an extension was built about 30 years ago, which houses the second tender. The fire service in Graiguenamanagh owns a third vehicle, an off-road vehicle, which is parked immediately adjacent to the fire station. There is no land surrounding the station which is located on the street in Graiguenamanagh.

The difficulty with the existing station is that there are no facilities for training. While there are pumping facilities available on the Barrow in Graiguenamanagh for the firemen to do some of their training routines, no such facilities are available for much of the other work they must do such as working with ladders or, in particular, cut[896]ting up cars. A large part of fire service work nowadays is concerned with the aftermath of car accidents. Unfortunately, for training purposes firemen in Graiguenamanagh have to go to Kilkenny one night per week. That is a problem in that the area is left uncovered from a fire service point of view. I acknowledge that significant work has been done and money has been invested in upgrading a number of fire stations in the Carlow and Kilkenny area during the course of the last few years. Graiguenamanagh is one of the last outstanding fire stations.

Tomorrow afternoon the new Graiguenamanagh relief road will be opened and will be a significant improvement in terms of traffic movement in and around the town of Graiguenamanagh. Given that the county council is in possession of a large parcel of eight to ten acres of land on the new road, perhaps an acre of ground could be provided in conjunction with the Department for the provision of a much needed new fire station to be operated successfully out of Graiguenamanagh to cover the south Carlow and south east Kilkenny areas.

Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I thank Senator Phelan for raising this issue and giving me the opportunity to respond on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Killeen, who has responsibility for the fire services. I acknowledge the Senator’s appreciation of the significant contribution the fire services have made and continue to make each day in safeguarding our communities. I am familiar with the fire services as I had responsibility in that area for a number of years in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I am aware of the progress that has been made in the Senator’s county. I am pleased to place on record the Government’s commitment to the fire services in terms of modernisation and financial support.

The fire services capital programme, administered by the Department, supports local fire authorities in the development and maintenance of a quality fire-fighting and rescue service. The programme provides funding for the construction and upgrading of fire stations, the procurement of fire appliances and specialised equipment. There have been significant improvements affecting all areas of the fire service in recent years — increased investment in infrastructure and equipment, more staff, better training, and the provision of improved communications infrastructure. Last year, for example, saw the greatest annual investment to date, over €24 million, under the fire service capital programme.

Graiguenamanagh fire station was built in 1950. It is a two bay station and is located on the High Street in the town. There are six other fire stations located in County Kilkenny. They are located in Kilkenny city, Castlecomer, Freshford, Thomastown, Callan and Urlingford.

A new fire station at Callan was completed in 2003 at a cost of €590,000. In addition, a replace[897]ment fire station at Freshford was completed recently at a cost of in excess of €1 million. I understand that tenders have recently been received by the fire authority in regard to the construction of a replacement fire station at Castlecomer. This project was approved by the Department under the 2005 capital programme.

At present there are two applications for funding from Kilkenny County Council for consideration under the programme. An application for funding has been made for a replacement two bay station in Graiguenamanagh and a further application has been made for the construction of a replacement station at Urlingford.

In general, applications for funding under the programme for the building or refurbishment of fire stations are considered on a case by case basis having regard to the fire authority’s priorities, the existing facilities, the level of activity, the proximity of other fire stations, and the competing demands of other fire authorities for the available funding.

In regard to the issue raised, I understand that the Department has recently written to Kilkenny County Council requesting the fire authority to rank, in order of priority, applications to construct replacement stations at Graiguenamanagh and Urlingford. The Department has also requested that the fire authority prepare and submit a capital appraisal in respect of both projects in line with the Department of Finance’s guidelines for the appraisal and management of capital expenditure proposals in the public sector. Upon receipt of the additional documentation sought by the Department and an indication of the council’s priorities, construction projects submitted by Kilkenny County Council will be considered in the context of future capital programmes.

I hope this clarifies the issue for the Senator. I have no doubt he will use his influence to ensure his local authority responds to the Department’s queries at an early date.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan Zoom on John Paul Phelan I thank the Minister of State.

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