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Saturday 25 March 2017

Big chill costs councils €13m in road maintenance

Reporting by Paul Melia, Fergus Black, Ralph Riegel, Brian McDonald, Anita Guidera and Conor Kane

LOCAL authorities will be forced to cut back on essential services this year because of costs incurred during the big freeze.

A survey by the Irish Independent shows that some city and county councils expect to pay out at least three times the budgeted figure for winter road maintenance after the prolonged cold snap.

Some 18 of the country's 34 local authorities said yesterday that the initial cost of gritting roads and overtime payments to staff stood at almost €13m -- and the bills are mounting.

Most authorities, meanwhile, have not yet counted the cost of repairing the potholes that have appeared since the thaw began.

Repairs to water services are also not included in the total.

And the figure does not include the country's biggest local authority -- Dublin City Council -- one of the most badly-hit areas.

South Dublin County Council expects its bill to reach at least €1.2m -- three times the €400,000 budgeted for.

Laois County Council has spent up to €300,000, while Waterford City Council expects the bill to hit €350,000. The county council spent €1m gritting and salting roads in Kildare, while Cavan County Council spent €700,000.

With almost 10,000km of road, Cork County Council spent €270,000 on rock salt alone to keep the roads ice-free.

Wicklow County Council said it also hired equipment in recent weeks that would have to be paid for.

Donegal County Council, meanwhile, has incurred the highest costs -- at €4m.

Yesterday, county manager Michael McLoone presented a breakdown of the cost of the operation, telling councillors: "We may need to review our budget to see if we can transfer money from other services and whether further savings can be made on what was already a very tight budget."

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has said that no extra money would be made available to meet the costs.

Irish Independent

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