Georg Spartanski, Source: Pleven Municipality

Georg Spartanski, Mayor of Pleven: Transparency brings trust

Georg Spartanski, Mayor of Pleven: Transparency brings trust

“I thank the people of Pleven for starting actively express their opinion!”

Georg Spartanski was born on 4 July 1963 in Lukovit. In 1990 he graduated from Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski ". He has a 25-year practice in the field of criminal law.

In the period 1999-2011 he was chairman of the Pleven Municipal Council. He is a member of the Bulgarian delegation to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. In the 2011 - 2015 mandate he was a municipal councilor in Pleven. From 2008 to 2012 he chaired the Standing Committee on "Organization and interaction between municipal councils and municipal administrations" of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria. He is a deputy representative of the Bulgarian delegation to the European Committee of the Regions since 2016. Since 2016 he is also a deputy representative in the Council for decentralization of state management at the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works of the Republic of Bulgaria. Since 2015 he is the mayor of Pleven.      

Pleven is the only city in the region that has a university. Which are the other strengths of the municipality?

Yes, indeed, the Pleven Medical University is an attractive center for young people who have chosen to develop in this field. I have to emphasize the fact that many other countries are interested in the university - this year the newly-admitted students were 250 from 28 countries, including Italy, UK, India, Sweden, Canada and Japan. For the first time in the university there are also students from the Republic of Cape Verde. In the English-language course at the University of Medicine study over 1,000 foreign students from 45 countries.

Pleven has also become a center of the region, offering a variety of targeted and high-quality and technologically-innovative medical care procedures - we have a number of private investors who have built medical centers, laboratories, diagnostic-consultation centers and multiprofile hospitals. The Municipality of Pleven strives to create conditions for investors who want to place their money here, all the procedures coordinating documents and issuing permits to move as quickly as possible. By way of example, I would point out that at the end of June, the municipal councilors approved the sale of a communal terrain on which cancer-treatment centre is to be built as well as a campus for graduate students at one of the multiprofile hospitals. The planned amount of investment in our city is 28 million leva (14 million euros), and the expected number of new jobs - 300. Thus, Pleven reinforces its place as a center of medicine not only in northern Bulgaria, but even we can boldly say - at the national level.  

The first sod for the construction in the city last year was made by the large German company Leoni, a global provider of energy, data and automotive products, solutions and services in the automotive sector. This happened after two and a half years of negotiations and in competition with several other Bulgarian cities. Expectations are for 2,000 jobs to be created and to improve the situation of the labor market, which will have a positive impact on the economy of the entire region. An intention of a threefold increase of production in Pleven, was also expressed by the French company "Malteri souffle Bulgaria" Ltd., the biggest producer of malt. The new plant will have more than 50% increase in production capacity compared to the current one. The building will be at the site of the former brewery, where a silo barley will be built.

In the city you'll also find one of the biggest and most modern tailoring enterprises in the country - "Dimitrov" Ltd. Magdalen Dimitrov, the president of the company, made large investments in the company's production base, social and sports infrastructure. The modern complex will include three new buildings, another 760 jobs will be created in addition to the existing 1500.

I have never separated the investors into small and large, Bulgarian and foreign, everyone is welcome in Pleven. The role of the local government is to create business conditions and, despite the insufficient financial resources available, we will continue to make efforts in this direction. But let us not forget that the equality between South and Northern Bulgaria as a result of investments made, mainly in state-owned infrastructure, is one of the main keys to the development of local businesses. The good thing is that the government is aware of the fact that Northern Bulgaria has been isolated in the past years, and has focused its efforts on completing the 40-year-old Hemus motorway.      

Mr Spartansky, you have been mayor since 2015, how did the city change during this period?

Pleven has changed a lot during this time and is continuing to change, which is good. The more important thing for me is that people have also changed. I have always been open to dialogue with them, I have not left their opinion, alert or note without attention. Citizens express their views openly about what is happening in the city, write to me, call me, become active in seeking feedback about the things they are excited about. Of course, there are those who do not like the changes, but it is not normal everyone to love you and to approve of what you do. Most useful for the entire team at the Municipality is constructive criticism - it helps us see where we are wrong, where there is more to be done, how things can be done in better way. That's why I thank the people of Pleven for starting to actively express their opinion!

What challenges are yet to be resolved?

There are not one or two, but I will highlight those that we are currently working on. The Municipality of Pleven will receive 15 million leva (7,5 million euros) by applying the procedure "Measures to address transport as a source of air pollution" under priority axis 5 "Improving the Air Quality" of Operational Programme "Environment 2014-2020". We received a letter confirming this from the Programme Managing Authority. The project intentions of the Municipality of Pleven are to provide 14 electric power stations, charging stations and service equipment. Expectations are the project to be approved by the end of the year. With its implementation Pleven will have 100% ecological urban transport. New lines will be served mainly in the Pleven Industrial Zone, for which there are no candidates for the announced auctions, and the connections between the different districts of the city will be improved. In addition to reducing noise, we will also achieve clean, zero-emission, eco-friendly urban public transport.

Another serious challenge are the repairs and the putting into operation of the stray dog shelter. The property is a former veterinary surgeon and was transferred free of charge from the State to the Pleven Municipality in July 2017. We did two public procurement contracts without success, so we switched to direct negotiation. Our desire is to have a modern and functional shelter. Our vision is to make a major overhaul of the entire building stock and its adjoining parts, including reconstruction of premises and reconstruction of installations, to introduce intelligent systems for the management and regulation of heat and electricity consumption, measures for energy efficiency, install video surveillance, and more. There will also be separate special purpose rooms for the animals.

We have opened a procedure for awarding a public procurement contract for "Engineering - design, exercising of author supervision and reconstruction of the street lighting system of Pleven". It includes preparation of a working investment project; delivery and installation of 7,260 new energy-saving LED lighting fixtures; building of a central monitoring and control system for street lighting; repair of 430 electrical panels and installation of components from the control system in them; repair of mechanical elements for fixing street and park lighting fixtures; delivery and installation of 332 new steel pillars and 2 385 new consoles for attaching street lighting. By implementing these measures, we will greatly reduce the cost of lighting and repair the systems, increase the illumination of streets and parks - thus people will be more relaxed.

For more than a year we have been working on the repairs of part of the pedestrian zone and the Bus Station. We have to renew this part of "Vasil Levski" Street, which connects the already repaired central part of the Mausoleum to Freedom Square and “St. Stambolov " Square. During the repairs, underground communications will be renewed, we have foreseen a lot of new greenery, more benches, expanding of the space for pedestrians, including providing accessible environment for people with disabilities. As far as the Bus Station is concerned, repair of the buildings and bus sectors has not been done for a long time, but it is imperative to keep the license and meet the regulatory requirements laid down in Ordinance No 33 of 1999 on public passenger and freight transport . And to that end, we already have a completed project that we are moving forward. For these two repairs - the pedestrian zone and the bus station, we will rely on our own means. The municipal councilors voted in favour of a decision by the municipality of Pleven to take over long-term debt in the form of a loan from the “Regional Fund for Urban Development” AD up to a maximum of 4,845,000 leva (2,422,000 euros). 

As TheMayor.EU already informed, Pleven is one of the municipalities that has received a WiFi4EU voucher. The network is already built, are the citizens and visitors of the city satisfied with the new service?

We managed to build the network and start the free high-speed internet for the feast of Pleven - 15 May. The WiFi is accessible through 11 points in the city center, and the devices are positioned to cover areas with the highest attendance. The points are located in the area of ​​the City Garden, around the Water cascade, “Stefan Stambolov” Square, the “Tsar Osvoboditel Alexander II” House Museum, the departures of the Bus station, the garden opposite the railway station, etc. In addition to the project, the municipality of Pleven put another point in the garden in front of the Medical University. People are very pleased with this new service – for a long time now, mobile devices and all their capabilities have not only been used by young people.

Share other major projects co-financed by the European Union.

In 2018 the construction of a sewage system and underground water supply networks (Stage I) began in the Yassen and Bukovlok mayoralties. The sites are part of the large-scale project of Pleven Municipality "Integrated Water Cycle Pleven - Dolna Mitropolia", which is implemented under OP "Environment 2014-2020", co-financed by the European Union under the Cohesion Fund. The project is one of the priorities for the country. There are two already completed sites, and we started in May this year the reconstruction of the municipal wastewater treatment plant for the municipalities of Pleven and Dolna Mitropolia. The project amounts to 117,150,300, 52 leva, of which the grant amounts to 87,911,636, 37 million and is the first and only one in the country partnership project between two municipalities in the water supply and sewerage sector during the programming period 2014-2020.

Large-scale repairs under the project "Ensuring a Sustainable Urban Environment of Pleven" were carried out in the City Garden, the Water Storm and “Stefan Stambolov” Square. Children's and sports grounds were built, pedestrian bridges were renewed, and 17 streets were renovated. The aim of the activities was to increase the aesthetic and ecological quality of the physical and living environment in the city, to provide accessibility for disadvantaged people, ensuring safety, to achieve a sustainable environment with improved living standards. The project is implemented with the financial support of the Operational Program "Regions for Growth" 2014-2020, it is realized within two and a half years and has a total budget of 13 844 761,73 leva representing 100% free of charge financial support for Pleven Municipality. Of these, 11 768 047,47 leva is European co-financing and 2 076 714,26 leva is the national co-financing.    

Under the OP “Regions for Growth” 2014-2020 we also implemented the second stage of the project for development of integrated urban transport in the city of Pleven. The total project cost is 17,249,024 leva, of which the grant was 16,784,879 leva, and the Pleven Municipality's own contribution amounted to 464,407.80 leva. 14 new trolleybuses were delivered, thus we completely renewed the fleet. We already have specialized service machines, the introduction of an electronic system for charging passengers is forthcoming, and video surveillance was instralled on 16 intersections.

Our latest project, which was approved and signed a contract for financing its implementation is "Patronage for the Elderly and Disabled People in the Municipality of Pleven". The project is under the Operational Program "Human Resources Development" 2014-2020, priority axis "Poverty Reduction and Promotion of Social Inclusion" and is worth 773 978.08 leva. It will cover 334 persons from all 25 settlements in the municipality. The target group is elderly people over 65 years old with limited disabilities or complete inability of self-service, as well as people with disabilities and their families.

You welcomed the creation of the European portal for cities and citizens - TheMayor.EU as early as 2016. Note an initiative from Pleven, which you believe deserves to be shared with your European colleagues.

When I ran for mayor, I promised full transparency in the work of the municipal administration. I believe that the work and decisions we make should be public, as we have no secrets from our employer - the citizens of the municipality. That's why I introduced the practice of the regular weekly working meetings of the municipal administration to be public, that is, open to all media. They are present every time at these operational meetings, and the commented problems and decisions that are made become directly accessible to citizens in real time. Transparency brings trust!!!

In the autumn, local elections will be held in Bulgaria, will you run again?

Right now I have a lot of tasks for solving and projects for implementation, so I completely think about them. Whether I will run is a matter that is not on the agenda at this stage.

In the autumn I will make such a decision, as the evaluation of my fellow citizens will be decisive, I will comply with their expectations.

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