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NAAS - 25/10/1902 Town Hall Improvements and Free Library

 Leinster Leader: 25/10/1902
Naas Town Hall-Extensive Improvements Contemplated
Free Library Scheme-report of the Committee
The Council approves of the new plans
At the meeting of the Naas Urban Council on Tuesday last, Mr. R. Sargent presiding, a very important report was received from the committee appointed to make arrangements for the provision of a Free Library in Naas, in accordance with the terms of the Carnegie grant. The committee, as will be seen from the report, first contemplated establishing the Library in the water tower, but failing to find space available, they hit upon a plan which will be far more acceptable to the people of the town. They propose to augment by the funds at their disposal a loan to be raised by the Urban Council, the joint amount to be used in enlarging the Town Hall and providing a library there as well as carrying out some much needed improvements in that building. It should be mentioned that the plans of the new arrangements, executed by Mr. Inglis, are of a very complete character, and that the existing space of the town hall is economically and advantageously utilised, while the additions provide for an imposing frontage, a greatly enlarged assembly hall or theatre, a library and reading room, and a prefect system of sanitation throughout the building. The outside members of the committee present at Tuesday’s meeting were Rev. D. Gorry, C. C. (chairman), Rev. Mr. Elliott, Mr. J. Whiteside Dane, and Mr. H. Farrell.
The Clerk read the report as follows:
Gentlemen, Your committee appointed for Urban Technical Instruction and Free Library purposes beg to submit to you the following scheme for the latter purposes. It was at first thought that there would be room in the water tower for the Library, but it has been found that the entire building there would be required for Technical Instruction purposes alone, and in consequence your committee had to look elsewhere, and so doing were of one mind that the position chosen for such Free Public Library should be as central as possible in the town, and easy of access to the many who are certain to avail of it when open. Your committee therefore suggests that the middle floor or left wing of present Town Hall building should with certain alterations and additions be utilised for the purpose. It was found that these apartments could only be made available by making considerable alterations in the present front and internal arrangements in the Town Hall, which afforded an opportunity of making much needed improvements in that building. The plans therefore put by your committee at their suggestion by Mr. Inglis will not only provide admirable rooms for library, and add considerably to present appearance of building, but greatly enlarge the present assembly and ball rooms, and provide much needed accommodation. Apart from the library rooms proper, the improvements, etc., to other portions of the Town Hall building as per plans are as follows: Three doors are provided to assembly hall, and present seating accommodation will be increased by 25 per cent. The first part when reserved can be approached by a new corridor without passing through back of hall. It is proposed to slope portion of floor so as to give a better view of platform from back of hall. Dressing rooms and platform can be entered through corridor without disturbing audience, and cloak room is provided near entrance to reserved seats, and a lavatory in connection with dressing rooms. The hall will be ventilated on "inlet and exhaust" principles. The existing accommodation in "League of the Cross" is improved by the building of a full sizes permanent billiard room instead of the temporary one at present in use, together with the provision of necessary lavatory accommodation. A rate collector’s office is provided near the main entrance to Town Hall, and Town Sergeant’s quarters, which will be increased by the provision of a scullery, w. c., and enclosed yard together with a store for fuel to be used in Town Hall.
The accommodation to council chamber and town clerk’s office will be increased by the introduction of a small room to be used as a store, particularly when large apartments are handed over during Hunt Club balls.
The floor space of the ball room will be increased by 20 per cent, and an entrance and spit provided, instead of one door as at present.
The lighting of Catholic Institute billiard room will be improved, and necessary lavatory accommodation provided.
Your committee have secured for the carrying out of the suggested plans a sum of over £500, £150 of which has been subscribed locally and £350 thereby secured from Mr. Carnegie. This sum of £500 must be expended on the Library alone, but the necessary staircases and passages, which will be a vast improvement on the existing ones, will also lead to and be of advantage to all the other apartments in the Town Hall building. Your committee expect many additional subscriptions locally, and whatever surplus there may be over and above £500 will be available for the additions and improvements to what may be called the non-library portions of the building, as suggested by plan. In view of your council sanctioning the above scheme, and in view of the important alterations and improvements to present buildings as embodied in plans, your committee suggests that your council will set aside such a sum of money as will secure the carrying out of so considerable a scheme.
D. Gorry, C.C. (chairman)
Mr. Inglis having explained the plans to the members of the council, Mr. Quinn inquired if he had prepared an estimate of the probable cost.
Mr. Inglis said the cost for Library accommodation would be £530. The total cost in accordance with his prepared plans would be £1,169, and this included £111 for the finishing of the front of the Town Hall.
Mr. Quinn: How much of that would the council have to provide? Mr. Inglis: The difference between £530 and £1,169.
Mr. Quinn: It would be over half. Chairman: Of course, if it is got it will have to be got on a loan. Mr. Staples said that he supposed if they made the improvements they would charge an additional rent. Clerk: yes, you will want to revise the hall prices. Mr. Inglis: The League of the Cross get a good deal of the benefit. I do not know if they pay any rent at all. Chairman: A nominal rent. Clerk: They pay £1 2s 6d. Chairman: They put some things up there themselves.
Mr. Brown having introduced the deputation from the committee, Father Gorry said: Gentlemen, our only business here on the part of the committee is to help you in the consideration of the different suggestions offered in the report; and as far as we can to influence you for the good of the town to advance the money that is required to carry out the plans before you. The present building is-well I think I am not far wrong in calling it a blot on the main street of Naas. The little expense that might be incurred in carrying through the scheme would, if spread over the ratepayers, cost little, especially in view of the sum that is at present in hand for part of the scheme. We have given our very careful consideration as to how much the scheme might cost, and the more we think of it the deeper, we are impressed with the fact that this is a grand opportunity for the people of Naas to carry out long-desired and greatly needed reforms in this building. We are here to do all we can to assist you.
Mr. Cane: It appears to me that the Town Hall is in such a state that it requires something to be done with it. I think that the plans prepared by Mr. Inglis are most excellent. They provide for a great deal of accommodation. They give a better assembly hall, a library, they provide for a better cloak room downstairs, a proper stairs, offices for your rate collector, and sanitary accommodation in addition to a new front to the town hall. Having regard to the fact that you have got £500 which will be spent in the place, it certainly appears to me that now would be the time to provide the additional money and carry out the entire scheme. The committee’s object would not be properly carried out unless the council will help to carry the scheme out in its entirety-in fact, I believe that it would fall to the ground. It appears to me that these improvements would be a great advantage to the people of the town in every possible way. Not only the accommodation provided in the League of the Cross rooms would be an improvement, but by carrying out the entire scheme you will have a decent and respectable institution, instead of what I might say is a disgrace to the town. If you carry it out you will be the means, amongst other things, of providing good entertainments for the people. At present no large company can come to Naas, because the accommodation is not large enough to realise sufficient to pay them. You all know that a library would be a great advantage to the people of the town, and with £500 in hand you should not lose a good chance of making your Town Hall what it should be. The plans appear to me to be excellent ones, having regard to the material on which Mr. Inglis had to work.
Rev. Mr. Elliott: Mr. Chairman, it strikes me that as business men you should not lose this opportunity. By taking advantage of it you are acting in the best interests of the Urban Council. We are a committee appointed to try to establish a Free Library, and we have got £500. We are asking you to spend the greater part of that money on this building. In fact, I think that the Town Commissioners would be reaping a greater advantage that the committee by being asked to spend the latter’s money on their building. This is an opportunity of doing work that was contemplated many years ago, and I do not think you should neglect it. This building is central, and is suitable for a library. Would it not be a very pleasant thing for the members of the Town Council themselves, while waiting for a meeting or anything of that sort, to drop in and have a read (laughter), and perhaps meet some of the people they represent there, and have a chat with them (laughter). I do not think that the councillors will be found fault with by the ratepayers if they help on this much-needed improvement.
Chairman: The Committee have put a lot of matters before us-the things they have done and the money they have been the means of providing, amounting to about £500. From Mr. Inglis’s calculations it would take between eleven and twelve hundred pounds to carry out his plans, and generally the actual working out runs the higher than the estimate. Are the ratepayers of the town prepared or anxious to lay out this seven hundred pounds? That it would improve the Town Hall and give it a good appearance, and give us a good deal more in the interior, I have no doubt, and it would be an advantage to the town. I cannot see any objections to it if we can borrow the money, but I do not know what the general body of the ratepayers will think of it, and that will have to be considered. We are here of course to do what the majority of the ratepayers think, and it is what the majority of them agree to that we should do. For myself I think it would be a very good and a very wise think; we are getting nearly half the money practically, I might say, as a gift.
Mr. Brown: Perhaps the better way would be to have a resolution before the meeting, and then we can make any observations we wish on that resolution. We could not decide today as to the amount; that would be too rapid, and the resolution, which I will now propose, will, I think, be free from any objection of that kind. Mr. Brown then proposed that the report of the committee be adopted and approved of, and that the question of the amount to be expended by the council be considered at the next meeting. Continuing, he said: that will give ample time for the examination in detail of the plans by any member of the council who is not acquainted with them, and of course any ratepayer who desires to see them can do so. The question of the amount will then come up properly at the next meeting, having been previously placed on the agenda paper. Our chairman has expressed his own personal view of approbation of the scheme, and I think it would be difficult for any other member of the council to come to any other conclusion. If the amount required did even go up to £700. I say that the town would be getting good value for that amount. To put it shortly, the ratepayers would be getting £1,200 for £700. And apart altogether from the advantages conferred on the community by the establishment of a Free Library, there will be an absolute monetary return from the outlay which will fully repay the instalments of principal and interest necessary to clear off the loan, and even leave a surplus. As you may observe from an examination of the plans, very substantial advantages will be conferred on the bodies that use the Town Hall, and for these advantages we may reasonably expect that they will contribute more than they do at present, and from that source there should be a substantial sum available towards repaying the interest and principal of the amount. We will suppose that you had had to borrow £700, for the sake of argument. That sum of money would be advanced at 3 ½ per cent, which is about the rate at which money is advanced, and this would mean £25 per annum. Then we would require to have a sinking fund to pay off portion of the principal, which would bring the amount we would have to pay to about £40 for the first year, and this, of course would be gradually reducing, so that six per cent would be the maximum repayment. I am satisfied that the increased returns would not only bring in this amount, but leave a surplus. As was pointed out by Mr. Dane, the Town Hall is not used at all to the extent that it would be if it was a more suitable place for public entertainments. Our average lettings are on the increase now, but not only would we have an increase on that number, but our tariff might be increased owing to the increased earning power of the hall. From this point if view the hall would be vastly improved by giving separate entrances, reserved seats and a cloak room. Besides these advantages we have increased accommodation for our offices, and the further improvement of this room, which has been already so much improved, and there will not be a pen up of this £50, which has been placed at the disposal of the committee, which will not go to improvement of the town hall, even taking the library out of the question. In moving the resolution I will say this-that if I thought that any portion of the expense would fall upon the poorer ratepayers of this town, I’d be the last to recommend it. On the contrary, I believe that instead of being a burden to them it will be a relief to them, because, as I have said, the increased receipts from the town hall will more than pay the instalments of the money that we will have to expend.
Mr. Staples: I have been speaking to a great many ratepayers, and they appear to be very anxious that this should be done.
The Chairman then put Mr. Brown’s resolution to the council, and declared it passed unanimously.
Chairman: I am sure we all feel thankful to the committee for the good work they have done, and for the pains they have taken to put the plans before us.
Mr. Brown: I think we should pass a vote of thanks to Mr. Carnegie for his generous donation towards the establishment of a Free Library.
The vote was passed.
In answer to the Chairman, Mr. Brown said it would not be necessary to put the Public Libraries Act into force. They had already done that as far back as 1897. They had struck a rate of a penny in the £. Chairman: It was never collected.
Mr. Brown: It went back into the rate. There is one thing I might say. We have been speaking here as if £500 was the only amount available. But I might add that the public spirit, the patriotism of Naas is not yet exhausted. There are a great many people who, when they know what we are doing, will come forward with subscriptions. I believe that.
Chairman: Wont they say that as it is coming out of the rates now they need not subscribe any more? Mr. Brown: But my point is that there will not be a penny on the rates. Chairman: Let us hope so. Mr. Brown: Even so, that would be no answer for the people who can afford to subscribe. Let it be remembered that by far the larger part of the £150 has come from outside the town of Naas. Naas would not have done anything beyond what was expected of it if it subscribed that amount itself; but the resources of the town have not been exhausted, and I believe that if there is an effort made between this and next meeting there will be a great increase on that £150. I ought to mention now that Mr. Dane has set us a very good example, which I hope will be followed. He gave £5 for the establishment of a free library, and when he found out that our plans were intended to benefit the town hall he gave £5 more. As far as I am concerned I am prepared to increase the subscription that I originally gave.
Mr. Staples said he believed there would be many additional subscriptions when the plans were made known.
Father Gorry: There is some public spirit left in Naas, and I have no fear that we will get plenty of additional subscriptions.
The council adjourned.

Leinster Leader article in October 1902 on the proposed improvements to Naas Town Hall and the Free Library Scheme.

[Compiled by Mario Corrigan; typed and edited by Niamh McCabe; final edit Dee O'Brien]

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