Residents of Vesele amalgamated territorial community are not afraid of being active, offering cooperation and implementing experimental projects. They built a solar power plant in the place of abandoned landfill. An administrative service center was opened in Vesele, modernized with the help from Swedish experts. The community has bought and operates the first mobile waste sorting line in Ukraine. Schoolchildren are able to grow vegetables in school greenhouses, learn to manage the community using table games, and record their own programs for the local radio station.
Vesele village amalgamated territorial community (ATC) was established in the fall of 2015. It is centered at Vesele village in the Zaporizhia Oblast, 48 kilometers away from Melitopol.
During three years of the community’s existence its budget has more than tripled, from almost 25 million UAH in 2015 to over 80 million UAH in 2018. The main sources of revenue are individual income tax, local taxes and flat social tax.
The ATC’s Shyroke village is the home to ХіАТ LLC, an enterprise manufacturing aircraft and training future pilots from all over the world. Entrepreneur Vasyl Kireiev has established in Vesele his company Azov Auto Atelier, manually assembling replicas of famous British car models of the 1950s: Lotus Super Seven and Shelby Cobra.
Chairman of Vesele community Petro Kiiashko says that they began developing a strategic development plan for Vesele community back in 2014. Today, the community has a plan until 2025. Among the priority objectives is development of small businesses:
“The community must make sure that everyone finds their place. If we do that, nobody will leave and new jobs will grow by themselves. We are now creating conditions for that. We make sure that water is running round the clock, because three years ago, water supply was available only 7 hours a day. We install outdoor illumination in every street and repair roads. Once resolved, these three issues will immediately pull up small businesses.”
Vesele community plans to create business opportunities in agriculture. Vesele has a dairy plant producing nonfat dry milk, which plans to expand production. People in Novooleksandrivka village want to have drip irrigation to grow vegetables and berries. Refrigerating equipment will be installed in the center of Vesele to open a farmer’s market. This way, the community wants to create more jobs and increase the villagers’ income:
“I think that Ukraine has huge prospects. We have to pay less attention to those “upstairs”, because everyone knows the president’s name but forgets the [community] chairman’s. And here, on the spot, we have everything, both good and evil. We are not worse than Europeans. They are more organized, and they respect laws, because they know that otherwise, they will be punished. But in our country, everyone can break law. That’s wrong. If someone can selectively break law, we will end up with nothing.”
Besides Vesele village, Vesele ATC has another seven villages. In total, the community has over 13 thousand residents. The community’s chairman Petro Kiiashko says that unification brought them money to install gas supply, street illumination and water supply systems in the villages that needed it, to repair and equip schools.
“People were simply waiting for reforms. Today, when I meet with people, nobody’s asking whether we did a right or wrong thing. Obviously, we were right. And we gained a lot. During this period, we received close to 35 million hryvnias in investments – a very large sum for us. And most importantly, we have resolved many issues which existed in the past and which are arising today. Therefore, we should not stay content with past achievements. If we did something well today, people will forget it tomorrow. People keep giving new tasks to us.”
Petro Kiiashko has been the chairman in Vesele for over 30 years. He was born and raised in Pasichna village in the Carpathians. In 1979, Petro came to Vesele and decided to stay there. The community chairman believes that Ukraine can go through all troubles and tribulations if every citizen will be able to organize themselves and think about how to make as much as possible in their own place:
“Our task is to convince people that everyone must start with themselves. Let everyone cut weeds in their own backyard, paint the fence or, if possible, replace it. And then, keep putting everything in order. Let them rise earlier and work. We need specialists here. Ukrainians can sit down and think about what they need, get a job and start working.”
Own mini factories
Vesele community has established a communal enterprise producing asphalt and concrete mix for road repairs and sidewalk tiles. The factory works for the community’s needs, and is one of the sources of revenue for the local budget. Petro Kiiashko says that the enterprise has been operational since 2018, and during this time, pothole patching required for 60 km of roads in Vesele is nearing an end. After that, they plan to repair roads in the community’s other villages:
“Thanks to our own factory, we were able to save almost a million hryvnias on road repairs last year. This is a lot of money for us. We also do pothole patching when we need it, not when contractors have time for it. In the past, pothole patching in the village was usually taking four months, but this year, it should take one month at the most to finish it. Four people work on it. Their workday starts at five in the morning, when the streets are still empty. They are trying to find a street with a lot of potholes, because all large potholes were small once. So, we are trying to put them in order.”
The factory has a mobile sidewalk tile production line. This tile is used near schools, kindergartens and other facilities. The community chairman says that almost 20 km of paved pathways have already been laid in all villages of the community. This line creates additional jobs and helps save money comparing to orders placed in Melitopol or Zaporizhia.
Solar power station
In March 2018, Solar Park Vesele was launched at the outskirts of Vesele. It was built on the premise of a large landfill abandoned back in the 1990s. The ATC chairman Petro Kiiashko says that preparing a land plot for this project wasn’t an easy task. Still, help with tackling red tape was critically important for the investor, Solar Park Pidhorodnie LLC:
“There was a lot of waste here even back in the Soviet era. We would never be able to clear up this area by themselves. So, we had to find an investor who would agree to clear up the site first. One could easily find 20-30 hectares elsewhere and not waste so much time and money. However, they believed us that we will do everything to get the paperwork for the land plot done ASAP. And we did it. Allocating land for an investment project is not that easy. A town must have a general plan. Thankfully, we had certain things already taken care of, as we started to make a general plan back in 2015. All we had to do is to step things up to finish it.
The 16 MW station has 800 fixed solar arrays 72 panels each. Serhii Yudin, Head of Solar Park Vesele says that the station has been fully operational for a year now:
“We transmit the entire energy we generate to Ukraine’s energy market. There, at an electrical substation, it gets distributed. Presently, we have over twenty persons employed here. Among them are trained electrical engineers who are required to have experience in working at a substation. There are specialists of this kind among Vesele residents as well; they work here in shifts. Had there been more power stations like this across the entire Ukraine, it would have been a success for our country.”
Waste sorting line
This year, Ukraine’s first mobile line for sorting of solid waste went operational in Vesele community. This station, whose equipment is mounted on a truck trailer, was purchased with a government subvention and a grant. The community wants to use this station to sort waste from local landfills and unorganized garbage dumps.
The community’s chairman Petro Kiiashko says that the idea to buy a waste sorting line was conceived after a waste processing law was adopted in Ukraine in 2018. This mobile sorting line was designed by Poltava engineers:
“The community is developing an action plan for sustainable energy development. This is an initiative of the European Commission. And that’s one of the plan’s fulfillment parts aimed to process waste and reduce СО2 emissions. The most important thing is that this machine is able to process waste accumulated over 40 or even 50 years. We could also organize subbotniks, where people would clear this area up and then we’ll take the waste away. This is our desire to work together with people in whose villages there is not even a place today to go for a picnic.”
Oleksandr Zhadan, director of the communal enterprise Arus says that the mobile line is simple to use and designed to be operated by six persons. The sorted-out plastic, glass and metal are then pressed and sent for recycling:
“We have one official landfill for the entire district. There is also an unauthorized dump. The mobile station can come there at any time and re-sort the waste, thus reducing the landfill’s volume by half. We also purchased two garbage trucks for the private sector. It was hard to start, but today, it’s hard to stop, because people are already used to it. If a garbage truck is late, our telephone turns red-hot. People get used fast to something good.”
Greenhouses in school
Since 2016, Vesele’s school No 1 specializing in biotechnologies has two greenhouses. Vegetables grown there by pupils under professional supervision go to the school’s cafeteria, and flowers are used to adorn the school and other public places in the village.
The school’s principal Nelia Artim says that there was another greenhouse in this place in the past, but it went out of use. The school has developed design of a new greenhouse, and the community provided funds. The goal is to give pupils environmental education and practical skills in plant growing, and to beautify the school and the village:
“Today, we grow seedlings there. There are plantations of conifer bushes, parsley, cabbage, tomatoes of many varieties. We also have here houseplants to beautify classrooms. We have a lot of flower seedlings: marigolds, ageratums, petunias.”
Middle and high school students work in the greenhouses during crafts classes and in specialized hobby groups. Elementary graders visit the greenhouse on a tour:
“We have Young Gardener and The World of Houseplants hobby groups attended by some 60 children. Kids are learning to grow plants in a greenhouse. During the entire academic year, children from our school and the community’s other schools visit our greenhouse, and we offer them master classes in plant handling. After all, we are here in an agricultural location, so children must have practical working skills. They give themselves a try. There is a certain percentage of kids who are interested in it, and that’s very good.”
In February 2018, a modern administrative service center (ASC) was opened in Vesele, providing services to the entire district (with the population of 22 thousand — editor’s note). U-LEAD with Europe helped with modernization of the Center. The ASC director Tetiana Ovdiienko says that while before modernization the Center had 4 specialists providing 30 services, today, the Center employs 12 specialists and provides 111 services:
“We bought and installed equipment for the issuance of internal and international passports. Many services we provide are social: registration of residence place, land-related matters. Our Center has specialists of the Pension Fund and specialists of the Interior Ministry’s service center; we handle registration of motor vehicles and reregistration of driver’s licenses. Our people no longer have to go from one office to another; they take all their matters to ASC. For people, it is very convenient. I want people to come here with pleasure and solve all problems they have.”
At the Center, such popular services as registration of residence place or an abstract from the State Land Cadaster could be received in 10-15 minutes. ASC has a special area for visitors featuring a self-service bank terminal and access to online banking.
Petro Kiiashko, Chairman of Vesele ATC says that the community became the first in their region to participate in the ASC modernization program. People of Vesele actively apply for participation in international programs, and the local authorities prepare specialists to oversee these projects:
“The heads of international programs want integrity and assurance that money of their taxpayers will work. We tell them about what we do. They see that, and believe that we’ll see everything through. We indeed are trying to make sure that everything we plan comes true. And most importantly, we prepare specialists who work with investors. Even if we win, that doesn’t mean that the project took off. It requires oversight. An investor must see that we do what they suggested, and they have the right for that, because it’s their money.”
Library, radio and youth hub
Vesele community has a central library for adults and a library for children, and also, five library branches in villages. The central library’s staff faced layoffs, but eventually, its personnel were kept in place. Now, the library’s employees write books about local lore. The library’s manager Olha Bondarenko says that they have already published six books and prepared for publication another five. Presently, further four books are in the works:
“Every employee of our library selects a topic and gathers materials. We have a good card file on local lore, and we get information from there. We meet with people, make arrangements, visit them at home where they tell us stories and give photographs. The first book we published was Unforgotten about surviving World War II veterans. Other books we published were Honorary Citizens of Our Land, A Year in the Community, Touristic Vesele Region. Village librarians are working on the history of our villages. The books are released in 80-100 copies, and we distribute them mostly as gifts.”
Beginning from spring 2018, the community’s radio station Vesele FM has been broadcasting daily during four hours on the frequency of Promin radio station. The presenters prepare local news for all villages of the community, youth programs, announcements and congratulations rubric, and stories about the locals who build the community. Yurii Menzhynskyi, who is responsible for technical support at Vesele FM, has been taking interest in radio since he was in the seventh grade. He says that this radio station became one of the first of its kind in the region, and it has huge ambitions as regards its development:
“We want to have transmitters that could send this signal at any time: “This is a problem we have, and we must gather in that place”. We live just 40 km away from a nuclear power station (Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Station near Energodar — editor’s note), so we must be prepared for any emergency signal. This is one of the main tasks. Our radio station is still very young, and it does not enjoy the authoritativeness we’d like it to have. Still, we are already informing people about various matters, and want it to become the community’s favorite radio station in half a year. There is a radio mast nearby, and we want to raise the antenna by another 40 meters to make sure that our radio signal covers not just the district but also the areas beyond it. We have a flatland here, so it could be done.”
The central library also hosts PLATFORMA youth hub equipped with furniture, computers, a multimedia board and flipchart for educational and entertainment activities. The hub’s employee Anastasia Karpenkova says that young people gather here to play games, watch movies and learn something new.
“There is a rhetoric art group on the hub’s premise, where children master the basics of this discipline and record their radio programs. Right now, we are playing the table game called “The World of Communities”. This game teaches youths to communicate with each other, helps develop leadership qualities, and teaches to live a right and honest life. We teach our youth from the early age to participate in the formation of a common treasury and contribute to the community’s development. In that case, Ukraine will be not only happy but also a bit wealthier.”
This material was created with the support from U-LEAD with Europe: Ukraine Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development Program jointly financed by the European Union and its member states Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden.
By Natalia Ponedilok, Bohdan Lohvynenko