‘We want to put the heart back into our towns and villages’ – Cummins

Roscommon Council CEO Eugene Cummins says the new Civic HQ, which will be officially opened next week, is the “people’s building” and represents a platform for the future which is based on openness and transparency…

I had called up to see Roscommon County Council Chief Executive Eugene Cummins for a quick word on something, but we ended up chatting at some length about the upcoming official opening of the new Civic HQ.

  The project was a source of some controversy for some people. Many others supported its birth.

  It is certainly a pretty magnificent building, and I note that at least some of its original critics have now been won over, and have acknowledged that it has (according to reports) come in substantially under budget.

  When I asked Mr. Cummins this week about the overall cost, he was very anxious to point out that once the final account has been finalised in the very near future (details will become public knowledge) he is committed to making the details known to the public “who, after all, will be paying for the building and obviously are entitled to know.”

  His own office provides a fine view of the Roscommon Courthouse, until recently the Council’s HQ. Visually it’s an imposing building in its own right, but it seems many worlds away now, when viewed from its massive, state-of-the-art successor.  

  Mr. Cummins says that while there are many challenges facing Roscommon, a determined drive to attract people back into the county’s towns and villages is underway.

  The CEO said there are “huge challenges” in trying to deal with the dereliction of our towns and villages, but he also spoke of the “great opportunities” there are for the continued development of “a county which is a beautiful place in which to live.”

  When the Roscommon People called on Tuesday, Mr. Cummins was behind his desk in the 6,674 square metre building which he shares with 210 Council employees. The official opening of the Civic HQ on Friday, June 17th will be marked by an Open Day, to which members of the public are invited.

  Confirming that the provision of about 320 car parking spaces is a project which is now almost complete, Mr. Cummins said that the Civic HQ is the “people’s building” and represents a platform for the future which is based on openness and transparency.

  “This is the people’s building. It represents a major investment by the people for the people…it is a modern, ‘open plan’, transparent building which will facilitate a connected way of doing business.”

  The new HQ, he said, is “saying something positive” and represents “a statement of our intent about how we do business.”

  He explained that the building will facilitate meetings with different groups and individuals, including, for example, developers who may be keen on investing in Roscommon.

  The Civic HQ will be available to various groups and bodies and the public will be encouraged to visit it, use it and take ownership of it.

  The building, he stressed, will be central to the new ‘connected’ way of doing business and the Council will focus on community development and enterprise, as well as Roscommon’s heritage, culture and tourism.

  Extolling the positives he associates with County Roscommon, Mr. Cummins said it’s a beautiful place in which to live and added that “we are near centres of employment.” He acknowledged that the creation of jobs, support for small businesses and breathing new life into Roscommon’s towns and villages, is a priority for the local authority.

  He said that funding had been provided by Government to help address housing needs in the county and confirmed that the Council is prepared to work with landowners on this issue and perhaps to acquire some derelict properties.

  “We want to put the heart back into our towns and villages, we will work extremely hard to create jobs through facilitating entrepreneurship.”

  Asked if incentives, including reduction on commercial rates, are envisaged for small businesses, Mr. Cummins said that reducing rates would not facilitate continued investment in the towns which is essential to contain competitiveness and enhance the public realm. 

  Paying tribute to the great job creation contribution of small business people, the CEO said that the best approach going forward was to “bring people back to live in our towns.” More people coming back to Roscommon would lead to more activity and this would help maintain existing businesses and create new ones. He said this is a challenge, not least because we have an ageing population.

  “We must keep our competitive advantage…yes, the most important people are those who create jobs, but we must ensure that the services are there for the people and help maintain existing businesses.”

  When the Roscommon People asked Mr. Cummins if he had a view on the state of the health services in Roscommon – and on the need for Hyde Park to be upgraded – he answered with diplomacy, while still getting his point across.

  “It is very important that when people come to invest here that they see that the services are there to meet their needs…that’s across the board, with health, schools, medical facilities, Gardai, fire station, sporting facilities.”

  However he added that another aspect to his role is to work on a regional basis and help ensure that state investment is balanced. In that regard it was important that the best services are available (regionally) – not necessarily on our doorstep.

  Asked if he feels the much-publicised threat to part of South Roscommon – whereby it could be transferred into Westmeath – is now ‘off the table,” The CEO indicated that while the Boundary Review report has yet to issue, the matter is – or should be – a non-runner.

  “The threat to South Roscommon never made sense…it cannot be handed over. It was at variance with the principle of the Municipal District model, as we pointed out. Also, the Draft Monksland Plan meets the needs of that area and, in any event, 28,000 people (who opposed the proposal through submissions) have had their say. The people of Roscommon have invested hugely to develop Monksland. It cannot be handed over.”

  I look forward to conducting a more detailed interview in the future. There were other people, including top Council officials, awaiting a chat with the boss! Before I left, Mr. Cummins pointed out the window of his office and directed my gaze towards the final touches being applied to the latest carpark project. He was enthused by it, and clearly energised by the challenges ahead.

  “Our free parking is a big positive” he said, as he mused on how the carparks could even host events including musical and other entertainment performances in the future. 

  I didn’t feel the need to ask him if he felt the free parking would continue long into the future. Like South Roscommon, I reckon the free parking should be safe!