Shumen’s Excess Money – the city wrote its name with onyx letters in a garden, for BGN 500 thousand.

Amid a bunch of unresolved issues, the city spelled out its name with 20-kilogram letters made of onyx with planted flowers around and a fountain.

The name of Shumen is written in onyx letters against the background of the City Court
Photo: Diana Zhelyazkova

Exactly BGN 500 per sq.m. – that is how much it costs to renovate the garden in front of the Courthouse in Shumen. The green space, located on area just over one decare, “swallowed” BGN 500,000 for renovation. The price is calculated for replacement of only part of the park pavement, for the fountain, for lighting and new flowers. And an inscription “Shumen” against the background of the City Courthouse, written in 20 kilograms onyx letters.

The funds for the repair were target allocated by the government from the national budget surplus for 2017. Although the local government has yet to cut the strip with enthusiasm and fanfare, the project is causing quite controversial reactions among the people of Shumen. First, because the garden in front of the court was in relatively good condition and there was no need at all to pour half a million BGN. Second (but not by importance) – because the residents of the city have much more serious problems to solve. That is why, both citizens and municipal councillors, define the project as a symbol of pointless spending of huge budget money.

Where did BGN 500,000 go?

The renovation of the garden in front of the Courthouse began in October last year and had to be completed in 74 working days, by contract. The contractor is the Shumen’s company “Bars” AD, which works on other projects of the Municipality. Today, eight months after launch, repair is still on-going. From the old, very decent looking garden, a sundial was removed, made by Shumen’s artist Evgeni Rusev, and a fountain with water cascade was made in its place. However, the implementation of the fountain has become a subject of ironic comments on social networks, since at the bottom of the water basin ugly PVC pipes are placed quite visibly, which the Shumen people justifiably compare with the city sewer. “Now they will cover the pipes with some panels so that they are not so unpleasant”, workers at the site explain.

Shumen’s new fountain
Photo: Diana Zhelyazkova

Part of the park pavement in the garden has been preserved, the other part being replaced with a new, colourful pavement. Finishing works on the project are currently underway, but they may be delayed if drip irrigation is added to the elements. “We don’t know if we can make it through July 18th,” said people from a subcontractor company that are currently forming the flower beds. On July 18, Shumen celebrated its liberation from Ottoman rule, and the mayor’s administration probably wanted to cut the ribbon of the new garden on that day.

Shumen people are not unanimous in their assessment of the repair as our questionnaire has shown. The questionnaire we did with citizens accidentally passing by the garden. Some people like the new look of the space but do not believe it is worth half a million. “I think that BGN 500,000 is a large sum, I don’t know what they were given for. Probably the fountain is expensive, there are also labour costs, but it’s still a lot of money,” says a lady – former employee of the municipal administration. Others approve the project, but they want such repairs to be done in the neighbourhoods as well, not just in the centre. “In principle, the whole city should be ennobled, moving to the periphery as well, not only in the centre,” recommends a resident of Shumen, who is otherwise pleased that something new is being done for the city. According to third, the costs are justified because the city has to become more beautiful.

However, many Shumen people question the expediency of financing such a site, since the city has much more serious problems.

Pointless money spending!

Pointless and absolutely unnecessary spending of money – that’s how councillors from the local parliament in Shumen have determined the pouring of half a million BGN into the controversial project. The floor wasn’t given to the Municipal Council at all to express opinion on the project because the funds were earmarked by the government and no one asked the councillors what to be spent for.


The replaced part of the paving in the park
Photo: Diana Zhelyazkova

“A pile of money was poured out there, and so many other things could be done in Shumen! It is just wrong money given there! “- this is the opinion of the municipal councillor Vasil Todorov from Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), who is among the fierce critics of the project. These funds could have been invested much more appropriately to solve real problems for the citizens, Todorov said explaining that he is bombarded with complaints from Shumen people who insist the Municipality to solve urgent problems with urban planning.

“All of us, as Municipal Councillors, we have dozens of signals from people living on small streets in the city complaining that their streets are like  tombs and they are breaking their cars in the holes,” says the DSB councillor. There are many complaints about the unmaintained spaces between the residential blocks and they are beneath criticism in Shumen, as Todorov points out. And instead of solving these problems, the local administration pours 500,000 BGN into one garden.

“Against what Shumen people want, it is wrong to throw so much money for fountains! Who needs this fountain! ”The counsellor asked rhetorically. He is convinced that if the project had been submitted for approval to the municipal council, it would not have been approved. “This policy is wrong and it is a pity what is happening. I am embarrassed to answer to people why we do not give money for their demands, which are not grand at all, but at the same time we are throwing so much money in one garden. But nobody asks us,” explains Vasil Todorov. And he adds: “That is too much for me – what is being done. Those letters, this fountain, it looks a little kitschy to me…”

“The first question when it comes to spending public money is how reasonably the expenditure has been incurred and how efficient it is and here we have neither reason nor efficiency” said left-wing councillor Veselin Penchev. By pointing out that BGN 500 per sq. m. is too high for a garden repair, Penchev asks why it was necessary to spend so much money in this project at all. “I am convinced that Shumen people have many more important problems to solve,” the councillor said, pointing to the problem of mowing the green areas in Shumen.

Due to lack of funds, municipal enterprises were unable to cope with mowing and playgrounds sank into grass and people began to complain massively about ticks. It got there, that activists of one of the parties represented in the local City Council have formally taken up the initiative to trim the playgrounds and even launched a “green” phone line for alerts.

In Shumen there is also a huge problem with the broken sidewalks and the holes in the streets, which is why many citizens question why no public discussion has been organized on the spending of these 500,000 BGN. “People ask me how we approved such a project, but I have neither been asked nor notified about the garden’s repair,” Veselin Penchev said. He added that nobody of the local parliament had heard the arguments of the City Mayor why exactly this project has been funded.

“When the mayor’s administration starts to do something, it is good to hear the opinion of the citizens and at least to ask the Municipal Councillors, “comments Vasil Todorov. The political responsibility for this decision lies with the Mayor of Shumen, as he is the link between the central and local authorities and it is his obligation to present meaningful projects to the government, says Veselin Penchev. Both of them are categorical that pouring half a million BGN into a relatively well-kept garden is a waste of public money.

The impression is that some money is given here to be absorbed and no one asks how they are absorbed, the councillors commented.

But the mayor’s administration will cut the ribbons of the new site on the eve of local elections and will likely be able to accumulate some red points. For BGN 500 thousand.

 

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