A Monaghan county councillor has challenged the decision of the local Education and Training Board (ETB) to retain the existing Cavan Institute facility on the Cathedral Road in the town, once a new €24M campus has been redeveloped at the former army barracks on the Dublin Road.
Cllr PJ O'Hanlon (FF) criticised a decision by Cavan Monaghan ETB at their December meeting to sanction the co-location plan, saying that it did not represent best value for money for the taxpayer.
“You will have double expenses in terms of heating, security and then teachers will have to travel from one site to the other. If you are building a new Institute complex, why not have everything on the one site,” queried Cllr O’Hanlon at the January meeting of the CMETB in Monaghan Town last week.
Himself a board member, Cllr O'Hanlon said he missed the meeting in December as he was in hospital but said it was important that he got the opportunity to put his opinion on the record in relation to the decision.
“If you take the campus out here in Monaghan, it would look rather strange to have two thirds of the facility out there and one third in here in the town," argued Cllr O'Hanlon.
Responding, the chief executive of CMETB, John Kearney, told him that a background to the history of the Institute was given at the December meeting. Both the Dun Uí Neill complex and the current institute building are owned by CMETB. An external expert report was commissioned in relation to six possible locations around the town; and was carried out by architects Oppermann Associates.
That report concluded that the barracks on 16 acres was best placed to accommodate the brief of a building of 6,500 sq m catering for 700 students and 50 teachers; a practical training building for apprenticeships (4,651 sq m) and parking for 400 cars.
“The Institute was working from five sites with a student population on average of 1,200 and the transfer of training function bringing in another 200 learners. We were faced with the challenge of operating from five sites and a potential sixth site coming on board, with the delivery of many functions,” explained Mr Kearney.
"We have gone from six to two sites in trying to reconcile all the various legacy issues that have been there for quite a while,” continued the CMETB chief.
"In an ideal world, yes one single site [would be the best option] – a fully integrated Further Education and Training campus – but it was not as straight forward as that. We have gone from six to two for the future delivery of services within the region and the Department is very amenable and favourably disposed,” added Mr Kearney.
Cllr O’Hanlon pointed out that a sod had not yet been turned on the project. “When you have an opportunity to put the campus all in one, you should do so. We have the other building – so be it. We should try and outsource it, get onto any people such as Government agencies or any other parties that are looking for property in Cavan and let it be known, we have a facility there," he suggested.
“I was in hospital when that decision in Cavan was made. I want to make it very clear, I would not have been supporting that decision. I want to put that on the record: From an economic point of view and business perspective, in my opinion, going from six sites to one would benefit the taxpayer."
Mr Kearney had previously outlined how the delivery of the new campus in Cavan is the next step in a campaign to secure Institute of Technology (IT) status for the region.