Jastrebarsko remembers its past, lives its present and as a “smart city” invests in the future
An interview with Zvonimir Novosel, Mayor of Jastrebarsko, Croatia
- August 21, 2019 11:30
- Monika Dimitrova
Zvonimir Novosel was born on 30 October 1972 in Zagreb, where he also graduated from the Faculty of Transport Sciences. Novosel was Deputy Mayor from 2001 to 2012 and he is officially the first man of Jastrebarsko since 2013. In 2017 he was re-elected mayor at the first-round with 54.64% of the votes.
Jastrebarsko area holds some of the best-preserved landscapes and picturesque villages, which make it a jewel of the Zagreb County. What else do you want our audience to know about it?
Jastrebarsko is a small town halfway between Zagreb and Karlovac, halfway between urban and rural, halfway between peace and the bustle of the city, and it’s connecting these ways into an idyllic area with a special soul and domestic atmosphere. The Jaska area is one of the most preserved parts of the nature and picturesque villages and represents a true pearl of the Zagreb County, Croatia and even wider region. Surrounded by sunny wine-rich hills, where numerous family farms are, excursion sites, forests and many other beauties, together with our greatest wealth, crystal clear spring water, is an ideal place for rest and living. In the town of Jastrebarsko and 58 suburban areas, there are around 16,000 inhabitants, and in this picturesque town you can find absolutely everything to feed your heart and soul – picturesque scenery that will titillate you with its beauty, you can freshen up with pure spring water, take a deep breath of the forest freshness, visit the remains of the past, castles and a multitude of cultural and historical monuments and many, many vineyards across the Plešivica wine road... and you can also come across a hawk that carefully monitors its area. The town of Jastrebarsko also has a very flattering title of which „Jaskanci and Jaskanke“ are particularly proud of, and it is the “European City of the Future”, so do not miss visiting Jastrebarsko – a town where every visitor is welcome!
You have been mayor of Jastrebarsko since 2013. How has the municipality changed over this period?
In recent years, much has changed in Jastrebarsko for the better and more modern. However, this is not only a Mayor’s merit, or a merit of just one person, but all my fellow citizens together, who faithfully follow and support us in the projects. I can freely say that the Town of Jastrebarsko is becoming a true and modern European town and is increasingly becoming an even more desirable place for the life of young families. We strive to be the Town tailored to family needs. Jastrebarsko is very close to the capital city of Zagreb, and yet smaller and quieter. Additionally, to keep young families, the Town offers a number of incentives for pre-school and school children and creates a family friendly infrastructure. Incentives are also given to companies, within the important zone of Jalševac, which is important to the Town, and economic growth has enabled the unemployment rate to be less than half of the average for Croatia. Jastrebarsko is today a big construction site in all respects, and the development projects are oriented to the future, in order to keep pace with the times.
Croatia has been a member of the EU for only 6 years, a small town like Jastrebarsko has already managed to implement European projects contributing to the development of the city. Share some good practices from your municipality. How do you finance them?
As I said earlier, the Town is fully oriented to the future, and the fact to prove it is that we are the first in the Zagreb County for the utilization of money from EU funds. We are currently implementing projects of a total value of 186 million Kunas (25 million Euros), of which 98% is the value of EU projects in which the Town of Jastrebarsko is the project beneficiary, that is the city owned company. We are currently implementing the largest project in the history of Jastrebarsko, which includes the upgrade of the water supply system, the upgrade and reconstruction of the sewage system, as well as the wastewater treatment system in the whole area of the town of Jastrebarsko. Under construction is a 50-kilometre sewage system and three new water reservoirs that will enhance the water supply system. From the current most important projects, the project “kulTura” should be singled out – a cross border cooperation where our partner is a Slovenian town of Črnomelj, we also expect a soon reconstruction of the Erdödy castle worth 80 million Kunas. We have submitted a project for the tender within the Urban Agglomeration Zagreb, (ITI – integrated territorial investment) as this is the first tender which enables a complete restoration of the castle and putting it into service, and we hope we will meet the criteria and get the necessary funds. In addition, we are also preparing some new projects that will be ready for the tender during 2019 and 2020. I think this speaks for itself on how much emphasis we put on the future through the withdrawal of grants from the European Union.
Furthermore, we continually invest in reconstruction and construction of transport infrastructure, as well as into green projects of the town with the objective of environmental protection and new breakthroughs in waste management, all for the energy efficient renovation of buildings of public purpose. Also, a great attention is paid to the Smart City project. We have developed numerous applications such as “E-roads Online”, the main objective of the project being to better address the issues of citizens in day-to-day work and to establish a more efficient system of management and maintenance of unclassified roads. Therefore, the modern WebGIS system has been established, which is available to all stakeholders, not only on computers, but also on mobile devices, which has a very simple access to information and is intended for a wider range of users. We continue to upgrade the existing WebGIS system with new solutions, that is, modules. It is our wish to also “open” the parts of the system to the citizens, so that, with the assistance of smart mobile devices, they can report the communal issues they have, to monitor the phases they are in and how much is invested in them. By introducing the WebGIS system, both organizational and financial results can be seen. With everyday use of the system for the maintenance of communal infrastructure system, it was also achieved a fast and efficient communication of multiple services at the same time, the implementation of the process is accelerated by more than 50% in comparison to the previous manner of functioning, it is easier to set the priorities in the works, that is, to determine which traffic and other issues are to be done / solved first, thereby significantly increasing the efficiency of the services to the citizens. Instead of using classic correspondence and other documents, the online system receives orders for interventions via smart mobile devices, resulting in considerable time saving. With the active use of road maintenance system, the use of consumables, issuance of quote cost estimate and order forms, the cost has been reduced in the full that is, a 100% amount.
Furthermore, the Town of Jastrebarsko has established communication between the local administration, citizens and civil society organizations through the project INFO Jaska – an innovative media available to everyone, setup in around 30 locations, which has also greatly reduced costs of advertising to NGOs in the areas of the Town, and with the care of a cleaner environment, the current information has become available to everyone. More than 150 NGOs from the Town area thus have the opportunity to publish the information they want free of charge, in just a few clicks, saving time and money. In addition, there is the application E-sessions which has greatly simplified the work of town services when preparing and archiving the sessions of the Town Council and the Mayor’s College, with its assistance, achieved are great savings of paper and costs. A permanent document database has been established, their quick search, as well as their accessibility at all times. Transparency in work and sharing of timely and accurate information with fellow citizens is the mission of the Town of Jastrebarsko, for which the town administration has been assessed as “excellent” on several occasions. Last year, a “Smart Garage for e-bicycles” was opened – a modern storage for electric bicycles, which, as such, is intended for renting of e-bicycles via automated Nexbike billing system. It is peculiar that this is the first garage with public electric bicycles built in Croatia – the project which combines the bike sharing technology with the renting of top-class city and mountain bicycles. With the objective of promoting social development, raising the competitiveness of the economy and efficiency of public administration, as well as the level of quality of living of all citizens of the Town of Jastrebarsko, by using information and communication technologies (ICT). In addition to this, we have also adopted the Strategy of Development of the Smart Town of Jastrebarsko for the period up to 2024.
For the development of the Town, the business zone Jalševac is of great importance and has various benefits for investors which Jastrebarsko offers. In the Business zone Jalševac there are currently 25 business entities operating with about 1,000 employees on the surface area of approximately 67 ha. The total available area of the BZ Jalševac is for entrepreneurs undertaking entrepreneurial activities is approximately 293 ha. The continuity of investment in the development of the Business Zone Jalševac was the main precondition for investment and creation of new jobs (road infrastructure, land purchase, etc.). An important segment are also the Town incentives for investors, more precisely the communal fees (exemptions: 1st year 100%, 2nd year 75%, 3rd year 25%) and communal contribution (exemptions: 20% of unit value for all zones of communal contribution – for investors who build office and business buildings where any kind of production will be carried out; 15% of the total amount of the communal contribution payment in a one-off payment for buildings whose communal contribution exceeds HRK 5,000,000.00 – for investors who build business and other objects that are not used for production activities; possibility of payment of communal contribution in 12 equal monthly installments – for all payers of communal contribution for the determined amount of communal contribution exceeding HRK 500,000.00). All this is responsible for the fact that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates (3.35%), half the rate of the average in Croatia.
How would you evaluate the necessity of a portal that brings together the best practices of European municipalities and aims to keep the citizens informed about the latest developments in local policies, such as TheMayor.eu? How can our platform be useful to your administration?
The objective is to exchange ideas and examples of good practice, and this is the only way to success. This is why I consider your portal to be a very important link of good examples of other cities and municipalities at the European level. I also believe that your portal is read by a lot of readers from various private and business segments, and I believe, that some of them, after reading this article, will surely visit Jastrebarsko, and some of them might also start a business in our town. This is, I believe, the ultimate goal and interest of your portal.
What will be the main goals you are planning to develop in the near future?
I am proud that Jastrebarsko is an example to many cities in Croatia, however, I am of the opinion that there is no harm asking other colleagues for advice in implementation of “their” good projects. The vision of the development of Jastrebarsko is to be the town that nurtures its past, lives its present and as a “smart city” invests in the future. I believe that in the years to come, we can create a lot, as we have laid a solid foundation. Jastrebarsko is a regulated town, there is almost no year that we do not receive a prize or confirmation for our work, starting with acknowledgments of the respectable "Financial Times" which declared Jastrebarsko as one of the top ten best small European cities in attracting investors and also one of the cities of the future. Therefore, the foundations exist and are firm. By preparation and implementation of numerous new projects, we shall raise our town on all levels – both in terms of quality of life and business opportunities as well as cultural contents.
Find out more about Jastrebarsko here