While supply is becoming virtually nonexistent, rents are increasing faster than anytime in the last 16 years
The mayor of Rusе wants people in the city to breathe easily and to live better
Pencho Milkov was born in 1978. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Ruse. Since 2013 he has been a doctor of law.
From 2011 to 2017 he was a municipal councilor in Ruse Municipality. In 2017 he completed a Master of national security and defense at the Military Academy in Sofia. In the parliamentary elections of the same year, Pencho Milkov was elected Member of the Bulgarian Parliament.
On 3 November 2019, Pencho Milkov was elected mayor of Ruse Municipality.
Ruse is the largest Bulgarian city on the Danube River. Photo by Ruse Municipality
Mayor Milkov, please describe in a few sentences your hometown Ruse.
Ruse is a uniquely beautiful city and I am not at all afraid to get emotional when I talk about it.
Our city combines the baroque superiority that everyone admires with the freedom and might of the great Danube river. It has always given me the confidence of being a European, something that we, the people of Ruse, have inherited for generations. Likewise, it gives me an inspiration to act, to upgrade. Ruse simply obliges. That's how I teach my children.
I will share that it was difficult to say goodbye to dozens of friends who left our hometown in search of a better life. I could not bear to see it abandoned and failing with its economy. And I wanted not only to stay, but to participate in changing it.
That's what I was thinking when I took the symbolic key of the city a few months ago. Then I promised that Ruse will again be the northern capital of Bulgaria - because it used like that and that title suits it.
Unfortunately, the beginning of your term as mayor of Ruse coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. You have taken a number of actions to support your fellow citizens, such as exemption from paying rent on municipal properties. Tell us more about the measures taken by the municipality to make life easier for the people of Ruse during this period.
The first and biggest concern was the people who lost their jobs while having children to take care of, as well as those who were left alone in the crisis. For young families who found it difficult to feed themselves, we organized a joint campaign with the Bulgarian Red Cross to provide them with food supplies. A warm lunch is delivered to the homes of the lonely and elderly people by our employees up until the present.
On the other hand, I am convinced that the low morbidity in Ruse is due to the continuous disinfection of urban areas. Both the central area and the neighborhoods are constantly disinfected, including the public buildings.
We also made sure that everyone was provided with the necessary protective equipment. The Municipality of Ruse donated masks to the people working on the first line, but we also received great support from local companies, such as tailors, supermarkets and manufacturers, for which we are infinitely grateful.
We also tried to help the business sector. After the declaration of the state of emergency, we decided that the small entrepreneurs could be reimbursed for the pavement tax paid by them. We exempted more than 100 companies from paying rents on municipal properties, we reduced the stall rents for traders on the city markets by 20%.
We have extended until 30 June the deadline by which companies and citizens can pay a discounted fee for household waste collection. The same goes for claiming discounts on the real estate tax and the vehicle tax.
The Patron Saint Day of Ruse coincided with the state of emergency. Although remotely, the municipality still provided a dose of good mood and raised the spirit of the people of Ruse with several initiatives. How did you manage to achieve this?
Although in a state of emergency, I believe that the people of Ruse managed to feel the spirit of the holiday. This year, given the isolation, we decided to create something that everyone has needed for a long time. The Ruse Culture channel on YouTube brings together the richness of the entire cultural life of our city - from concerts and festivals to theater productions, art and museum exhibitions.
I am extremely proud of what has been done so far, and the people of Ruse responded with great interest and enthusiasm. Thanks to this channel, Ruse and its culture are at our fingertips and we have the opportunity to experience over and over events that have happened in our city.
The Municipality of Ruse has not slowed down its work pace, but the focus is different. How did the difficult situation affect the work on the implementation of the already-started infrastructure projects?
In my first days at the City Hall, I stated categorically that all initiated projects will be completed on time. It is very important for us not to lag behind, to finish the infrastructure projects so that the people of Ruse can feel good in their city. In addition, we cannot afford to lose any funds, which is what would happen in the event of non-implementation.
We are at the end of the projects for the pier and the coastal zone in Ruse. The pier will soon be handed over to the concessionaire, and in a few weeks we will complete the activities in the areas around the pier wall. Currently, various tree species and shrubs are being planted, garden elements are being installed, lighting fixtures and benches are being installed - all those small details that will make this area a favorite place for Ruse residents and guests to walk.
One of your goals is to transform Ruse into one of the greenest and cleanest cities in Bulgaria. What steps are planned in this direction?
The installation of two stationary monitoring stations for air control in Ruse is forthcoming. They will complement the two already in existence - in the central part of the city and the mobile one on Bulgaria Blvd. - and they will expand the database from the permanent monitoring points of the National Environmental Monitoring System (NEMS), together with the system of mobile stations.
At a meeting with the Minister of Environment and Waters we discussed the replacement of the mobile station with a new one, which will be able to provide real-time data and be included in the information system for air monitoring of the Ruse Municipality.
In implementation of the Integrated Project under the LIFE program "Bulgarian municipalities work together to improve air quality" two more stationary monitoring stations are to be installed. The replacement of solid fuel heaters with environmentally friendly ones has also begun.
We will build and maintain massive green systems - park areas on municipal lands in the suburbs, we will purposefully plant new trees throughout the municipality. We regularly clean the streets and squares as a measure against air pollution from fine dust particles.
We are also working on the construction of an installation for sorted biowaste and its subsequent treatment.
How would you want Ruse to look like at the end of your first term?
A garden city - as it was designed to be. I want to put it back on the map among other major European cities along the Danube.
Every day I go to work with the thought that Ruse should attract people to stay here, work and live well, not send them away. We have a strategic location and international importance.
We have been the first in many aspects and we will be the first again. We are about to introduce new technologies in the management of institutional relations with citizens and companies and so we can achieve a new level of security and tranquility in the city.
The urban environment in Ruse will improve, including the space between flat complexes, on the streets and sidewalks, in the parks. The key word for me is "quality". I will control for it and impose it, because the people of Ruse are happy with the projects, but they are angry about the poor quality and slow implementation.
With the new program for air quality in Ruse for the period 2021 - 2026, with dynamic actions and transparent policy and with the participation of citizens, I believe that we will deal with the serious concerns that have plagued our city for decades. The goal is to reduce the levels of pollutants and reach the established standards for air quality.
I know that when the local government is persistent and united with the citizens, good things happen. The key is to also make the state work. I want to breathe easily and live better in Ruse.
To find out more about Ruse, visit the profile of the municipality.
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