Council seeks to borrow up to £1.3m for projects

The town hall is currently being renovated

The town hall is currently being renovated

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Douglas Council has petitioned the Department of Infrastructure for permission to borrow almost £1.3 million for major works.

The vast majority of the money will be used to upgrade and refurbish the island’s only crematorium at Douglas Chapel in Glencrutchery Road.

The council has requested to borrow a sum ‘not exceeding £1,126,856 for the purpose of extension, refurbishment and upgrade’ to the facility.

A report submitted to the council’s Regeneration and Community Committee in July stated that both the chapel building and the crematorium are in ‘urgent’ need of upgrade.

Contractors NK Construction Limited have been selected following a tender process, but no commencement date can be fixed until permission for the loan is granted by the DoI.

In August the council was forced to abandon its request for government help to cover the charges incurred by the loan, which it is estimated will cost the council around £70,000 per year.

According to the minutes of a special meeting of the Regeneration Committee that took place on August 7, the DoI said that it would have ‘great difficulty in approving the requested grant increase’ and would prefer that ‘fee payers rather than taxpayers’ should cover the costs of the loan charges.

The money will instead be raised by increasing the fees for use of the crematorium and other services offered by the chapel.

A report into the options for covering the shortfall with fee increases is scheduled for discussion by the committee in October.

An additional £690,000 will come from the council’s Cremator Renewals Reserve Fund in an attempt to minimise its borrowing.

Money from this fund will be used to upgrade filtration equipment and replace one of the facility’s two cremators with a new unit designed to accept larger individuals.

Cremation services will not be disrupted by the proposed work.

In a statement, Douglas Borough Council’s assistant chief executive Sue Harrison said: ‘The council is planning improvements at the Borough Chapel and Crematorium. Subject to borrowing approval, works will start to improve facilities for mourners, clergy, and funeral directors.

‘As well as extensive upgrading and refurbishment of the chapel, it is proposed to accommodate mercury abatement equipment to latest guidelines, and new crematoria equipment including a cremator acceptable of accepting larger individuals.

‘The project will take approximately 12 months to complete.’

Meanwhile the council has also requested permission to borrow up to £170,000 to resurface two levels of Shaw’s Brow car park in central Douglas.

Following similar work on the top level last year, the council intend to proceed with the resurfacing of levels four and five should funding be approved by the DoI.

Level four contains 136 public pay and display spaces and three spaces for disabled motorists, which will be unavailable to the public for around six weeks once the work begins.

While the resurfacing work only takes between two and three weeks per level, the users of the 132 contract spaces on level five will be displaced to the newly-resurfaced level four spaces while the work is completed.

Therefore there should be no interruption in service to users of the contract parking spaces.

Access is also expected to be maintained for users of the contract spaces on level six.

The work forms part of continuing maintenance which is designed to extend the working life of the car park.

Subject to approval and completion of the work, it is planned that levels two and three will be resurfaced during 2015.

Douglas Council’s petitions for funding for both the Borough Chapel and Shaw’s Brow car park will be considered by the DoI during the week starting Monday, September 8.

People wishing to submit views to the department may write to the Petitions Officer, Local Government Unit, Department of Infrastructure, Sea Terminal Building, Douglas IM1 2RF by Friday, September 5.

The funds for each project will be borrowed from commercial lenders rather than central government, but the council must first obtain the approval of the DoI.

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