A new plan to renovate Tree’s phone boxes; ferry reliability (again); and the effectiveness of the new EE mast at Garraphail were all discussed at length at this month’s Community Council meeting.
John Patience presented a plan that he and Rhoda Meek had developed to do up the eleven K6 telephone boxes that the community council had bought two years ago. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, the project has had a break and the boxes have aged rather ungracefully in the meantime.
John and Rhoda have now re-visited every box, photographed and assessed it, and worked out what repair work is needed and how much it might cost. Their idea is to take the work to the box, rather than uprooting them all to a central workshop. The power supply will be isolated, new hardwood glazing beads fitted and the doors repaired on the island, and the paint stripped and new panelling installed inside. Their central idea is for each township to ‘adopt’ their phone box, providing a local ‘champion’ who will coordinate most of the work locally.
Each township will then decide the box’s colour scheme and what the box then becomes used for: a defibrillator site, (mini) pop-up restaurant or …. Each box will have a panel designed by An Iodhlann with details of the township’s history and culture. The costs? Around £1,000 for each box.
The council thanked John and Rhoda for their impressive report and agreed to continue with the project. Possibly when it is completed, they may be passed to another organisation to look after in the longer term.
There was a detailed discussion about ferry reliability. There has been a good deal of talk about cancellations on the ferry service, and we heard last month from island hauliers what a headache these are causing. Now the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee have produced a report that shows that cancellations on the Oban-Craignure run have risen in the last three winters, and that the Oban-Coll-Tiree route is even worse. They bought weather data from the last twenty years and it appears to show that cancellations were thirty times higher in 2014/5 than they were in the comparably stormy winter of 1999/2000.
The discussion recognised that the ships’ captains and management have a difficult job – none of us take as many risks as we used to, the vessels are older and less reliable, and the same fleet is being asked to do more sailings. We will write our own report for our representative Stewart MacLennan to take to the Calmac Community Board meeting at the end of the month.
The air tender results should be known at the beginning of May. We have been having some useful discussions with Scottish Government politicians and officials to see if we could present a petition to the Scottish Parliament, and we will prepare ourselves in case we get bad news on this front.
Gerard McGoogan has done some interesting research on the new EE mast at Garraphail. We have had conflicting accounts about its effectiveness, and it turns out that it was not working to full capacity yet. Some parts of the island were getting a great signal, but it was still poor in others. There seem to have been issues with relays from the mast on Ben Gott, but some of this may be a simple commercial calculation. We have a new contact with the company and will press to get the very best service for the most number of people before the summer.
The state of the public toilets was yet again brought up. It was felt that Argyll and Bute and the community council needs to get on top of this problem once and for all. We have applied to take them over as community toilets, but our paperwork appears to have gone into a black hole. This will be our number one priority this month.
Dr John Holliday was in the chair, Ian Gillies and Alison Clark were in attendance. Robert Trythall sent his apologies. John Patience has agreed to join the community council under the ‘Skills and Knowledge’ arrangement to supervise the telephone box project.
The next meeting will be on 8 May, both to avoid the bank holiday, but also timed to be after the opening of the Argyll Air Service tender documents.
COMMUNITY COUNCIL BY-ELECTION
Argyll and Bute Council has agreed to hold a by-election for Tiree Community Council now that our numbers have fallen to two elected and two co-opted members. We are not allowed to hold a meeting if there are less than three councillors present. A date has not been set, and the European elections may (or may not!) affect matters. But do get in touch with me if you are interested. It is absolutely crucial that we have a strong council on the island.