The Trostianets urban amalgamated hromada was established in Sumy oblast in 2017. Having a solid financial foundation, after amalgamation, Trostianets received a powerful strategic development resource. This hromada embodies projects that are qualitatively and geographically beyond its borders. They took a district hospital on the balance sheet and make overhaul major repairs of its inpatient department here; festivals of music and historical reconstruction attract tourists from all over Ukraine. They also plan to restore the biathlon base for international competitions in Trostianets.
The Trostianets urban amalgamated hromada includes the city of Trostianets and four villages. The total hromada population is almost 22 thousand people. The amalgamated hromada’s budget has grown fourfold in two years – to almost UAH 200 million. The development budget, which the hromada directs to parks, hospitals, schools, sports facilities, etc., is also growing. Yurii Bova, head of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada, says that according to the perspective plan, 11 more village councils should join the hromada.
– This is really a chance to develop: small villages to join raion centers and jointly address all problems. In the village of Kamianka, we repaired the road, procured buses and set their routes to the village. This year, the state has allocated additional funds for repairing the road in another village. The garbage is already transported by a municipal enterprise based on the city tariff; the club, library and playground are under repair. We are building a park because they say: “We want a park like you have because we have one amalgamated hromada.”
Trostianets continues to work within the framework of a strategy developed for the city in 2007. This year, they will have to approve the amalgamated hromada development strategy that will determine the directions to build up villages of this amalgamated hromada:
– The city has the following priorities: jobs, investment, infrastructure development and tourism. In the hromada development strategy, we have clearly looked at what was s available in the countryside, and we focus on how to discover their strengths, how to develop their historical or architectural monuments, what should be there, or where to create jobs.
In the autumn of 2018, the “Card of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada resident” began to operate in the city of Trostianets, which allows the privileged categories of citizens to use public transport for free. Special readers for such cards were installed on local buses. Cardholders are served in public library out of turn, and they also receive a discount in one of the city pharmacy networks. The goal of the introduction of this card is, in particular the accurate accounting and optimization of budget expenditure allocated for social purposes.
In order for utility services to quickly find out about malfunctions in the city and respond accordingly, the Trostianets amalgamated hromada uses the Open City platform. With its help, residents can point to the place where the problem occurred (a burned-out light bulb, a fallen tree, an open hatch or something else) for the utility company to solve it within three days. Yurii Bova, head of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada, says that the status of any malfunction can be tracked online:
In 2018, about 300 applications were received. There is, for example, one person who submitted 20-30 applications during a year. This person walks around the city and sees that there the kerb has leaned and writes to us. The person has a sense of the duty fulfilled. And someone will pass by that kerb 20 times and will not even show it on the map. It depends on the upbringing of a person and understanding that your city is your home.
The Open City system is created as a platform for the whole of Ukraine. The hromada pays UAH 35 thousand a year to the Open Cities Association, which supports various electronic services. Yurii Bova, head of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada, says that in addition to this platform, the hromada introduced a lot of digital services: online broadcasting of city council sessions, electronic document circulation, etc.
For more than 10 years Trostianets has been modernising communal infrastructure and implementing energy-saving technologies. By 2008, all apartment buildings in the city were transferred to individual heating. All roofs of the residential stock were repaired. House pipes were replaced and movement-reacting smart lighting systems set up. For street lamps, they started to use more energy-efficient sodium-vapour lamps. They installed pumps and automatic water supply systems on all water intake facilities of the city. Now the water from the wells goes directly to the network bypassing the water towers, which are mostly clogged up.
Most yards do not have garbage containers. The garbage truck arrives according to a clear schedule, signals, and residents bring their garbage. People decided that such a system is more convenient for them. According to Yurii Bova, 98% of residents signed garbage removal contracts. After amalgamation, the hromada began to transport waste from the villages based on the city tariff.
Trostianets also implements a Comfortable Home landscaping programme. In 2018, this programme arranged the yard at Tatarenka Street and plans to renovate several yards each year. There are separate parking lots for vehicles, a recreation area and a playground in the renovated yard:
– For security reasons, we separated the transport area from the pedestrian one. Entrance to the yard is under video surveillance. If earlier there were 3 to 4 thefts a year, then after the installation of cameras there was no theft. Architects, who understand how much parking space, recreation areas, etc., should be available for this number of population, work on the layout of these yards.
Yurii Bova has been mayor of Trostianets since 2005. He is convinced that every hromada citizen must learn to respect the environment in which he or she lives and take responsibility for its development, since now every hromada competes for investments, jobs and people:
For me, Ukraine is a set of such towns. This is our entrance, our yard. And if we learn not to litter, to behave normally, pay taxes honestly, demand from the authorities to report on these taxes, believe me, Ukraine will be in a completely different environment.
The amalgamated hromada has a separate economic department involved in grant projects. In the course of its work the department received funding for about 20 projects: an inclusive ground, restoration of architectural monuments, creation of an educational centre, etc. According to Yurii Bova, the hromada is constantly looking for new solutions and ideas:
If we start now, then this breakthrough will be seen even in decades. If someone wastes this time now, believe me, he or she will stay in it. I think we have colossal potential. We have talented people. It seems to me that people lack only confidence and faith that we can do it. We can do normal yard, normal hospitals. Now, these processes are under way. And it seems to me that Ukraine’s greatest success is that we have finally started to take care of future generation. It will grow different, if you invest resources in it.
In his spare time, Yurii travels to other countries, studying their accomplishment experience. From these trips, the mayor brings ideas he gradually implements in Trostianets.
– In 2017, I was shown hospitals in Poland. I saw how a doctor enters a surgical department and does not touch a single handle – everything works automatically, everything is thought out to the smallest detail. It impressed me. I saw a very high level of vocational education in Poland. They realised that that it was impossible to use an old machine of 1978 to teach a good turner or welder. Now, they completely dismantle an electric car and assemble it again there. There are modern stands, modern equipment and modern approaches. We see it, take a photo and make a note. We are already elaborating a concept of how to develop our vocational schools, what competitive classes to make there in order to be demanded in the labour market after 2 to 3 years.
The chocolate factory “Ukraine” started working in Trostianets in 1974. In 1994, this company became part of the international Kraft Foods corporation (since 2012, the company is called Mondelēz International). The factory performs a complete cycle of cocoa beans processing. In addition, since 2005 there is a coffee packing unit, and from 2011 – a cookies production unit. The company employs more than 1,000 people.
– From the very beginning the factory occupied only 3 hectares of land. But we persuaded investors that we could provide them with 30 hectares of land, the most convenient tax conditions and maximum interaction in solving any issues. We agreed what we would ensure all permits and procedures in three days, not a month. We brought a customs office here to ensure that all export products are registered here. The company was actively invested: it is about USD 200 million of investment over the course of these years. The war had a little effect on this process. This is the most eastern factory of this corporation, which previously sold a lot of products to the Russian market. Today, the priorities have changed and they have already managed to exceed the amount of production that was before the war.
The hromada head says that the enterprise has a good level of remuneration and social security. People from other cities go to work to the factory. In order to attract such an employer and investor, the hromada must be open and interested in partnerships:
– It should be understood that business comes to the hromada to earn and not be a sponsor. This is about constant interaction and keeping your finger on the pulse – what does an investor want? What holes do you think were the first to be patched in the city after the winter? Here, and not in the center. Because it is a taxpayer, one of our breadwinners. We also took a hostel from factory, which was a financial burden for it. It is our hotel now. If the business wants to do something for the city, it will come and say about it. But you cannot demand it from an investor. In addition, our representatives of the factory and other enterprises are members of the executive committee of the city council. So, they understand in which direction the city moves.
In early 2018, the Trostianets hromada, in addition to the primary healthcare facilities, took the raion hospital on its balance sheet. It serves nearly 40,000 patients. Over half a year, major repairs have been carried out in the therapeutic department, while the renovation of the gynecological and maternity departments is ongoing. By 2022, the hromada plans to complete repairs throughout the inpatient department.
– Only the name has left from the therapeutic department, everything else is new. Absolutely new furniture and equipment. Wi-Fi systems are installed throughout the floor. The nurse point has video surveillance so she can see what is happening in the corridor. There are call buttons near each bed. The beds are adjusted to the needs of each patient. Each room has a TV set, refrigerator, washbasin, toilet and shower cabin. All wards are made according to a single standard, with no VIP wards available here. Approximately two million was the cost of repair of the therapeutic department and about a million – equipment. All these funds are those of the hromada only. If there were no decentralization, we would not even have dreamed about it.
The amalgamated hromada has renovated the X-ray unit in the hospital and together with the oblast administration bought a new device. Previously, the hospital used the X-ray device manufactured in 1976. With the help of charitable donations, a new biochemical blood analyzer was purchased for the hospital at the price of UAH 800 thousand.
– To undergo an X-ray, one has to pay only the cost of the film (UAH 30), for analyses – the cost of reagents (up to UAH 2). The analyser does everything quickly, automatically, taking very little blood. People from other cities and villages now come for these services.
The Trostianets hromada plans to thermo-modernise the entire five-story inpatient department in order to provide people with comfortable conditions and save on energy consumption. According to Yurii Bova, the community has determined the repair of the hospital as one of the priorities of its development:
– We consider the hospital as one of the elements of our community’s competitiveness. Because when there is no hospital, to go to another city is an inconvenience. Therefore, we will fight for it to be one of the region’s best in terms of equipment, quality and cost of health care. We work to have modern diagnostics and quick service here. The more people will be here, the greater will be the remuneration of physicians. It will be beneficial for them to stay here and service the population.
New classrooms and library
A large share of the hromada’s budget is spent for education. In addition to the maintenance of schools and kindergartens, Trostianets invests in the renovation of classrooms, new equipment and software.
– Schools that have joined the hromada, had not previously engaged in energy conservation, had not had multimedia equipment, etc. It means that it was necessary to invest in repairs and many other things. In 2018, we repaired 13 classrooms, mainly at the expense of the hromada. We decided that it was expedient to arrange the same quality conditions in all schools and classrooms. It is a play corner, mobile desks, multimedia projectors and boards. Every teacher should have a laptop – in each class as a must.
Yurii Bova, head of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada, says that the hromada is able to rationally use the state educational subvention and save funds for development projects. MozaBook software has been purchased to teach natural sciences in schools, which allows displaying complex phenomena and mechanisms in 3D or video format. Besides, the hromada introduces an electronic diary system, which helps parents learn about the success of children in real time.
– Gradually, chalkboards as a norm have to be abandoned. I was at school in the morning and classes were in progress. They did not use a chalkboard at all. Lamps all in schools should be diode. We removed incandescent light bulbs. We also replaced heating elements in school canteens to quickly warm the food and also save energy. Boiler houses that heat schools are mainly transformed to solid fuels.
In 2018, on the occasion of the Trostianets City Day, a renovated public library was opened. Liudmyla Yefremova, director of the library, says that the institution has an electronic catalogue and e-card reader.
Cloud technology came to our provincial library. After modernization, the number of visits to the library increased multifold. The young generation comes to us now because conditions for work, leisure and communication are created here. The library has transformed into a modern information and cultural center.
In addition to the reading room, the library plans to arrange a coworking centre, communication halls, multimedia hall-transformer for events, and a children’s zone. Yurii Bova, head of the Trostianets amalgamated hromada, tells about the concept of a social cafe that will also work in the library.
– The social cafe will sell tea and coffee without a commercial mark-up, i.e. at the cost price. We also want to introduce a practice so that people can pay here at will. These charitable contributions will be used to buy tea or coffee, etc. But a person understands that there are no earnings. A child can buy this drink for UAH 1, sit at a table and communicate with friends, read books. Not every child has the money, but they need communication. That is why we try to engage children in such environments. It makes sense, in our opinion, when the state says that it is necessary to combine cultural centers and clubs with libraries.
In summer of 2018, the Inclusive-Resource Centre for children with disabilities started operating in Trostianets. Specialists of the institution provide children with psychological and pedagogical assistance as well as promote their social adaptation.
The tourist attractions of Trostianets include the Golitsyn palace built in the 18th century. Today, this cultural complex combines a local lore museum, an art gallery and a museum of chocolate. One of the rooms was equipped for classical music concerts.
– There are different events in the palace, but mostly concerts. There are very good acoustics here. The confectionery factory presented us a piano of Bechstein German brand. Thanks to this instrument, we bring in interesting and outstanding singers from different countries. From November to April, we regularly have concerts in this hall, and we organize open air festivals in the warm season. When I started, I thought: who will attend, five people? And in fact, it is a full hall. People come from Sumy and Okhtyrka to attend our concerts. There is a beautiful chamber atmosphere.
Every year Trostianets holds art plein air events, where artists present their works to the city. The paintings are exhibited in the Golitsyn palace gallery.
– We have already had 10 events of plein air painting. After the plein air painting, each artist presents two paintings to the city. Artists from all over Ukraine, Poland, and also from Russia gathered here. These are professional, fast artists. They are brought to one place or another and they have half an hour to complete work before the sun has turned. We already have more than 100 works, which depict our terrain and landscapes. Paintings are not for sale. We periodically change the exposition here in the palace.
The estate was visited by the well-known composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Here he wrote an overture to a symphonic work on the drama “The Storm”. Today, the palace has a room with an exhibition devoted to the composer. Another museum room is devoted to Leopold Koenig, owner of sugar refineries, who was the last owner of this estate and turned the city into an industrial empire.
– This room tells how Leopold Koenig managed to rebuild a small village into a large industrial city at that time for 25 years. His companies exported a lot to different countries of the world. This was a very powerful person. It is interesting that he invested not only in production but also in hospitals, schools, libraries, developing a settlement. Children are brought here for guided tours. Historians tell them about the creative path of this person and how to do industrial clusters, even in a small settlement.
The chocolate museum appeared in this cultural complex in 2012. It has exhibits telling about the history of chocolate and the process of its production. The idea of creating such a museum belonged to the city council, and the confectionery factory provided samples of its products and part of the old equipment for this project.
– In this sense, we and the factory were partners. If there is no tourist trip to production, why not arrange a tourist flow elsewhere? We use the local brand of the chocolate factory but, at the same time, we are developing it. There are rooms devoted to various types of chocolate as well as coffee.
Another XVIII century architectural monument of Trostianets is the Round House. They started to repair this indoor arena as well as the manorial estate in 2007. The Round House hosts mass events such as the East Rock Music Festival, the Tchaikovsky Festival and the Old Fortress Historical Festival.
– This is almost the only circus of this form in Eastern Europe. This is an architectural monument of national significance. We try to save it as much as possible. We received funds from the EU for its restoration. We are now making a project. This building is on the coat of arms of our city and we believe that it is necessary to fill it with a full life. There is a unique atmosphere due to acoustics. Sound penetrates from all sides. Musicians come to perform here with pleasure.
The Trostianets park named after Pyotr Tchaikovsky was turned into a leisure centre. The park is divided into three functional areas: recreation area, children’s area and sports area. Gazebos were placed in the recreation area. In the children’s area – playgrounds, in particular an inclusive one. There is a football field, a tennis court, basketball and volleyball courts, street exercise machines in the sports area.
These sports grounds are absolutely open, meaning that no one has to go anywhere and ask for keys. The park has video surveillance. You can fish in the lake. We constantly provide it with fish so that the fish eats algae. In fact, this park has changed a lot in the last three or four years. Earlier, the maximum they did was the planting of flowers, cleaning, setting of refuse bins. A little more budget has occurred due to decentralization, and now we have the opportunity to take care of the park finally. It gradually becomes the one which a real European park should be.
Youth and professional sport
The Trostianetska hromada seeks to transform the Volodymyr Kuts city stadium into a modern sports complex. In spring of 2019, a new football field with artificial cover was opened next to the stadium in the framework of the reconstruction:
– We have built this field for eighteen months using the funds of the Ministry for Regional Development and the hromada. If it were not for decentralization, we would never have built such a field in our lives. You should have seen the faces of the children when they trained here for the first time, their joy about the field on which they trained. Children have additional incentives compared to playing just on the ground.
Having received more financial resources, Trostianets decided to engage strategic areas of the city development, namely, to revive the biathlon base, which was located in the arboretum of Neskuchne during the Soviet times. With the dissolution of the Union, the base was completely dismantled. The members of the hromada have cleared this place and are already conducting youth biathlon competitions:
– Why was Trostianets selected earlier for this base? There is a very cool terrain with height differences, which meets the standards for hosting biathlon championships. We asked people, was it worth restoring the base? Because it is about huge money. Most residents said yes, because they remember this base – there were hundreds of people working there, thousands of tourists and children had rest there. We are already starting to develop project documentation, consult with the Biathlon Federation, the Ministry of Youth and Sports as well as Czech experts who built the biathlon stadium in Nové Město na Moravě. Because we want to design not the base as the one in the 80’, but the one that will be one of the best in the world in 2035. We are working on it now.
This material was created with the support of U-LEAD with Europe: Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Programme, co-funded by the European Union and its member states: Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden.
By Nataliia Ponedilok, Bohdan Lohvynenko