Kerry County Council has appointed its first economic development officer.
The appointment is on a three-year pilot basis, backed by special funding received from the Department of the Environment.
The new officer, Bridget Fitzgerald, is an accountant and worked at senior level for financial services company FEXCO in the travel sector.
News of the appointment came as the council’s 2017 budget was described as “different to other budgets” because of a shift in emphasis towards driving growth.
The budget will see a total of €188m being spent in the county — incorporating a €61m spend on capital projects, from roads to tourist greenways and pathways on Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest mountain.
Key tourism and economic programmes have been allocated extra funding, with over €8m going into the construction of tour- ism and town centre projects.
“This budget is different to other budgets — it’s about core services, but it’s also about growth of the county,” said council chief executive Moira Murrell.
Councillors across the chamber commended Ms Murrell for her “vision” and different approach in the shift towards development.
Cllr Norma Foley (FF) said: “There’s an incredible amount of joined-up thinking in this budget and it’s hugely important that we have a line of vision going forward.”
The council’s head of finance, Angela McAllen, said the €127m core spending budget had faced a €5.5m shortfall but that this had been “bridged”.
It emerged payroll accounts for some €63m could be recouped from agencies such as Irish Water.
Ms McAllen and Ms Murrell outlined how “key economic drivers” had been identified and that €1.4m is being put aside to push projects such as the marketing of Kerry Technology Park, as well as finalising plans for the Tralee town centre Island of Geese site donated by Kerry Group; and the old Sara Lee site in Killarney.
Over €200,000 is being set aside to support two council tourism projects in Tralee: The Tralee Bay Wetlands project (€131,000), where a review of financial activity was being undertaken; and the Blennerville Windmill Fenit Harbour, which is used by Kerry’s major employer.
Liebherr Ireland, meanwhile, is being targeted for extra funding and is to get a special 10-year licence for dredging.
Countywide road funding from Transport Infrastructure Ireland was described by councillors as “absolutely inadequate”, while members also heard how major tourist routes along the Wild Atlantic Way and other tourist spots were wholly inadequate.
Cllr Maura Healy-Rae (Ind), referring to the poor state of the local roads, said: “People are entitled to have the road to their door every bit as good as Dublin.”
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