Frustrations about the ongoing closure of Portlaoise Leisure Centre were expressed at today’s meeting of the Portlaoise Municipal District.
On June 7, Portarlington Leisure Centre will be permitted to reopen as Covid-19 restrictions are eased – but that is not going to be the case for Portlaoise.
A motion from Cllr Willie Aird at this morning’s meeting called for the centre to reopen on that date but he was met with the following reply from Director of Services Donal Brennan.
He said: “I refer to the emailed note of 14th May from the office of the Chief Executive to an Cathaoirleach and Councillors. ‘Planning is currently underway in association with voluntary groups to ensure that Portarlington and Portlaoise Leisure Centres are open to the public in a timely and safe manner’.
“As members are aware there was work underway at Portlaoise Leisure Centre prior to the last Covid lockdown.
“Therefore it was always likely that the Portarlington centre would be the first to reopen after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
“Renovation work has now recommenced on the Portlaoise site; however one Contractors have recently informed us of potential delays in the delivery in some of their materials and the execution of works.
“The potential reopening date is being kept under review but as matters stand it is likely to be July before the centre reopens.”
Councillors were very frustrated by this news and Cllr Aird outlined all of the issues that now surround the facility.
He said: “This issue is not going away. A lot of investment went into that complex to make it into the centre that it is today.
“Right now, the grass is not being cut and it looks very bad. There has been damage done to the perimeter fence of the all-weather pitch.
“So despite them being unavailable for the various clubs and societies in our community to use because the centre is closed, they are being accessed illegally.
“There is an ongoing issue with littering down there but the bigger issue will be if the Astroturf is damaged because that will cause significant financial problems.
“The pitches need to be immediately reopened. There are people willing to rent them out – training has resumed and yet they cannot get them.”
Agreeing with Cllr Aird, Cllr Caroline Dwane-Stanley outlined details of a conversation that she had with an unnamed Council official about the matter.
She said: “I spoke with a Council official who I am not going to name.
“The damage to the fence was reported weeks ago but they told me that this would not be repaired until the centre reopened. That is not good at all.”
Cllr Thomasina Connell said that she has witnessed people illegally accessing the astroturf pitches.
And while she says the ones that she observed were mainly playing football, she fears that anti-social behaviour could eventually become a feature.
Cllr Aird requested that three steps be immediately taken in relation to Portlaoise Leisure Centre.
He said: “We need a definitive date for the reopening of the pool. A time in July is not good enough.
“I want to see the grass cut and the fence repaired. Too much investment went into that facility to allow it go to rack and ruin.”
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald, who is the Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, said that she would make the issue of the reopening of Portlaoise Leisure Centre to the top of her agenda for the remainder of her time in office.
It was agreed that Cllr Fitzgerald and Cllr Connell, who is chair of the Portlaoise Municipal, would seek an urgent meeting with Chief Executive John Mullholland on the matter.