SINCE EVACUATING ALL 256 residents from Priory Hall because of fire safety concerns last October, Dublin City Council has spent a total of €638,847 on providing security to the Donaghmede complex.
Four security personnel stand guard at a temporary base at the front of the apartment blocks 24-hours-a-day at a cost of more than €60,000 per month to the taxpayer, according to documents obtained by TheJournal.ie under the Freedom of Information Act.
The full sum of money has been paid in monthly instalments between 17 October 2011 and 31 August 2012 to G4S Secure Solutions (Ire) Limited, the sole company contracted by the council to provide security. TheJournal.ie has learned that the hourly cost for one security guard is about €17.
Services provided are described by the company’s invoices as “monthly temporary watch” and payments have been approved by the Housing Finance Unit.
In a statement, Dublin City Council said, “Security is in place as these apartments are vulnerable since they were de-tenanted and it is common knowledge that they are empty.”
Smaller amounts of about €110 have been paid each month for the hire of the temporary security base. Almost €450 was also invoiced by the firm for the provision of Tufloo temporary toilets and a further €61.50 for their collection earlier this year.
Despite the cost of security, a number of break-ins at the four apartment blocks have been reported by former residents in the past seven months. Responding to queries about the intrusions, DCC has confirmed that the perimeter security is not for the entire site.
Owners of the ill-fated properties were advised in a letter dated 30 April 2011 – and seen by TheJournal.ie – that the guards have been put in place to provide security to the 26 council-owned apartments and not the other properties. An extract from that letter says:
As you are aware, Dublin City Council is not responsible for security at the premises. The security company on site is there to protect council’s own property.Dublin City Council is not responsible for the premises or its condition and you enter the premises entirely at your own risk.
Insurance on the complex has also been cancelled and each individual residence has been advised to purchase adequate cover to cover visits to their homes.
Although security is limited, the council has told residents that personnel will ensure that only people with council-issued access letters and ID are allowed access to their units. They also patrol the front and rear of the property, as well as the basement areas.
Ursula Graham, whose apartment has been broken into twice in six months, says it is “unbelievable” that four guards can be on duty at all times but her property has still been “badly damaged”.
The first intrusion occurred last March during which the barrels of door locks were removed from a number of apartments. She notified by the council and Gardaí about the incident.
Then on 26 August this year, Ursula went to check on her apartment again and discovered even more substantial damage had been caused by an intruder or intruders. A previously fixed drawer had been broken once more and the alarm system had been removed from the wall.
“Electric wires were hanging down from the boxes,” recalls Ursula, who covered the cost of two locksmith visits after the break-ins. However, her main concern was the presence of exposed electrical wires in a building which has known safety deficiencies.
She was also shocked that somebody was able to get by security regardless of rules that dictate an ID and access letter is required.
Spokesperson for the displaced residents Graham Usher commented, “It is an unfortunate situation. We’d rather this wasn’t happening. A number of intrusions have been reported to Coolock garda station after locks were broken but DCC have said they aren’t providing security for us.”
Another bill for over €60,000 will be due at the end of September as there is no sign of residents moving back into their homes.
It is understood that the repairs bill to make the buildings safe would be at least €7.3 million but neither the developer Tom McFeely or the council are prepared to foot the cost of the extensive work. In the meantime, temporary accommodation has been provided to the 256 residents by the council, at a cost of more than €1 million. Although initially evacuated to hotels in the area, apartment owners have now been shifted to other temporary housing, including a number of NAMA-based properties in Dublin’s northside.
DCC are waiting for a hearing date for a Supreme Court appeal against an order which made it responsible for paying for the current housing of the residents. The banks, residents and DCC are also in the midst of a resolution process about the mortgages – most of which are about €250,000 – but little has been made public about the negotiations.