Local reforms of Sosnytska AH
Several interesting initiatives have been implemented in the Sosnytska AH of the Chernihiv Oblast, and they are now considering how to create 200-300 jobs.
By Dmytro Synyak
There are few architectural monuments in the village of Sosnytsia, administrative centre of the Sosnytska AH in the Chernihiv Oblast. However, the hromada has unique nature, centuries-old forests not damaged by any industrial enterprises. It just lacks places of interest to tourists. That is why Andrii Portnyi, head of the Sosnytska AH, wants to change Sosnytsia central park of glory, making it a must-see place for everyone who comes to the village.
“We want to bring new life and renovate this Park of Glory by renaming it to Memory Park,” says Andrii Portnyi.
Andrii Portnyi, head of the Sosnytska AH, near the chapel,
established in memory of the soldiers that perished in Donbass =>
The story of how Mr. Portnyi became the hromada head is quite atypical. He graduated from the Kharkiv University of Internal Affairs, and later served two years in Sosnytsia as an investigator and four years as an assistant judge. After that he passed the bar exam and started his private practice as a lawyer. At the same time, Andrii was a member of many public movements and in 2013 took an active part in the Revolution of Dignity, arriving to Kyiv’s Maidan.
In 2016, Andrii Portnyi was call up for military service – two months after his son was born. For eight months he served as a mobile combat frontier guard, having travelled the entire Chernihiv Oblast. In the army, Andrii Portnyi made a decision to run for the post of a Sosnytsia settlement head. He won the election, and in a year risked to run for the next election needed to form an amalgamated hromada.
A modern monument to those who perished in the current Russian-Ukrainian war has appeared next to the obelisks on the initiative of Andrii Portnyi.
Park of Memory
A woman in green uniform is sweeping pavements in the park.
“It’s good you have joined our utility company,” says Andrii Portnyi. “Finally, it will be clean and tidy here!
The chapel, built in memory of those perished in the current Russian-Ukrainian war, is considered a local monument and is in the asset list of the Sosnytsia utility company
Later on he turns to me:
“We have an acute staff shortage in our hromada. Despite the fact that the settlement council offers UAH 10 thousand of salary a month, the posts of several of my deputies are vacant. On the other hand, there is the problem of staff stagnation: people work in the same position for 30 years, and because of this they are the strongest opponents to any innovation. I believe that the Chernihiv Oblast, which has suffered the most from depopulation among all Ukrainian regions, should not do without the help of the state, which, in fact, should level the regions...
“You need jobs!” I insert.
“Highly need them!” continues the hromada head. “We can create agricultural enterprises, as well as forestry ones, since our forest farms simply do not have time to cut hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests we have. But in order for new business entities to emerge in the oblast, they need to be given special conditions. And I'm not even talking about reducing the tax burden. For example, now a legal entity has to pay UAH 3.5 million to connect electricity to its production facilities. This is absurdity! Who can pay that much!? Once there were more residents in Sosnytsia than even in Chernihiv, we had a theater and a choir. And now 7,000 people live here, most of them went to earn their living abroad. If earlier they travelled to Russia, now they move to Poland, Germany and Spain. They learn the language and leave… And no matter how much I struggle, I cannot return them alone.
Over the last four years, life in the Sosnytska AH has changed dramatically, and darkness has literally turned into light. The hromada is proud of the lighting networks that have appeared in many villages for the first time in their history.
The AH is also proud of utility companies that had been in debt before amalgamation, and their employees had not received salaries for months. Now these enterprises are profitable and even actively developing.
Iron forces of utility enterprises
Two new tractors and two brand new trucks were also purchased for infrastructure subvention, adding social development subvention and own funds of the Sosnytska settlement council. The total amount of “investments in municipal transport” reached UAH 3.4 million.
Hromada’s pride is a new mast
Rusty garbage truck manipulator
Another worker shows bags with plastic collected in nearby villages by the Sosnytsia children. The village council bought large plastic bags and gloves for them, and the schoolchildren collected 310 kg of plastic along the banks of the rivers and roadsides. The initiative was called "The Hunt for Plastic".
“Before I became the settlement head, garbage from the private sector had not been removed at all,” Andrii Portnyi tells. “And now, the garbage truck goes around all the streets twice a week. Moreover, 95% of the Sosnytsia population and 800 other residents of the neighbouring village pay for it…”
Getting people to pay for waste collection and disposal was the hardest thing.
These sacks contain more than 300 kg of plastic collected by children during "Hunting for plastic" campaign
The budget of the Sosnytska AH is UAH 75 million, of which UAH 25 million are own revenues. Realising that hromada’s money was not enough, the settlement council began initiating the conclusion of inter-municipal cooperation agreements, in particular, on improving the quality of waste collection services. These agreements have been concluded by the AH with all the villages of the rayon, which are to be included in it according to the perspective plan. Together, they have developed a project to purchase two garbage trucks at the expense of the State Fund For Regional Development. They will operate in all the villages of the rayon.
Andrii Portnyi has been driving me along the streets of Sosnytsia for a long time, showing what he managed to do in 4 years. Here in this kindergarten they installed solid fuel boiler, halving the cost of fuel. The SFRD allocated UAH 700 thousand for this case, Sosnytsia settlement council paid another UAH 400 thousand. Here the premises for the future ASC have been repaired, and the U-LEAD with Europe Programme will soon provide it with equipment and furniture. In this gymnasium, the windows were replaced and the roof was insulated by all the norms. And next to this stadium they created a modern mini-football field with artificial coverage, having spent UAH 1.4 million of subvention for socio-economic development of the territories, with 3% co-financing.
From the road you can see two boys in red and blue uniforms playing football on the field.
Makasieiev brothers, guests from Russia
“Oleksandr Dovzhenko used to study in that building,” continues Andrii Portnyi, pointing to a two-story building nearby. “Now it is closed, since the gymnasium has now 500 children, not 1500, as in the time of my childhood. I dream of renovating this building and opening a Youth and Children’s Centre there. One Italian fund offered us 100.000 euros for it, but this sum is not enough for such a large building. So now we are preparing a project, again, for the SFRD, expecting to receive UAH 7 million from it.”
In the building of the now closed school, where Oleksandr Dovzhenko once studied, Andrii Portnyi, head of the Sosnytska AH, wants to open Youth and Children’s Centre
As we go round the gymnasium to get to the central entrance, Andrii Portnyi tells how difficult it was to close a school in the village of Pekariv, where 24 children were studying, thus most of them had to go to study by ferry-boat through the Desna River.
We see two buses near the gymnasium. Andrii Portny is telling me exactly where he plans to build a covered rank for 120 bicycles (the main transport in Sosnytsia) in the school yard, as a chubby elderly man enters the yard. He is a physical education teacher Valerii Tyshchenko.
Two "Bogdans" of the Sosnytska AH
“Let's call things the way we see them,” Valerii immediately attacks me. “Do you believe that something will really improve? I don’t. Yes, there are some changes, but very few! The city is empty, people are getting poorer. If they gave the money, we would dispose of it properly! But they do not give funds! The first amalgamated hromadas received a lot from the state: we don't have that much anymore. We had to think about amalgamation earlier, but now there is nothing to say. And where should we get the money then? We have neither production nor gas fields. Take a look at our infrastructure: 50 years old! Can the hromada renovate it itself?
However, the gymnasium looks good. And the windows in it have just been replaced, and the furniture purchased (under the New Ukrainian School programme), and the gym is shining with novelty.
Even before amalgamation, in January 2016, Sosnytsia joined the World Covenant of Mayors initiative, having made voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2030. Besides, the settlement (practically a city!) has joined the Energy Efficient Cities of Ukraine Association, pledging to invest in means to conserve all types of energy. Since then, the AH has employed an energy manager who saves about 10% of all energy, or about UAH 3.5 million a year.
Last year, the Sosnytska AH adopted a local programme for reimbursement of the principal amount of “warm loans”. About 200 thousand hryvnias have been spent on this over the year, and another UAH 300 thousand have been provided this year. By participating in this programme, one of the apartment buildings (there are 42 of them in Sosnytsia) replaced windows and entrance structures, paying only 10% of their total cost.
Thanks to this boiler room kindergarten now spends on heating not UAH 500 thousand, but twice less
“I had the opportunity to study energy efficiency in Norway and Poland,” says Andrii Portnyi.
“In four years, we have significantly changed the life in the hromada. I remember every single change. At this bus stop we put the trash bin, installed a public toilet there, here the LED road signs were set up, there the road marking was restored... But, unfortunately, people have short memory. That is why I have set myself a goal for the next year to create 200-300 jobs in our AH. I have a few ideas about this that I cannot share at the moment. Come in a year, let's talk then...”
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