Shakhivska Hromada: unifying after shellfire

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Shakhivska Amalgamated Hromada was the first rural Hromada in Donechchyna. Surviving the shellfire in 2014, three village councils took a risk to unite and are ambitiously developing the Hromada infrastructure nowadays. Today Shakhivska Hromada holds one of the leading positions in the ranking of financial solvency among small communities. An Administrative Service Center has opened in Hromada, as well as a Citizens Security Center and a hybrid power station with solar panels. A renewed hub school in Shakhove educates children from 14 villages.

Shakhove was first mentioned back in the 18th century. During Soviet times from 1919 and till 2016 the village carried the name Oktiabrske and according to the decommunization law, it was renamed after the first owner of the village Oleksiy Shakhiv. Today the village population consists of three thousand people. Majority of villagers are employed in the agricultural sector, production enterprises and social sphere.

Shakhivska Hromada was created in fall 2015. Today it unites three village councils (14 villages) and further expansion is on agenda. The head of Shakhivska Hromada Volodymyr Kucherinenko says that the inception process wasn’t straightforward but the result matched up to the expectations.

— At the beginning when we were just discussing the possibility of merging, it was somewhat frightening. We wanted to unite three village councils with different budgets and a different number of constituent villages and this fact made us nervous. Today we don’t regret our decision and think it was for the best. Firstly, our budget increased. Secondly, we can see that some projects moved off dead center and changes are taking place. The number of workplaces is also growing. A couple of years after the unification I can state with certainty that we couldn’t have implemented a great number of projects with the old team structure. It’s obvious that towns get more resources since their needs are bigger. However, we are taking small steps to preserve villages and not let them die out. Village is an important constituent of the state.

The budget of Shakhivska Hromada in 2018 equalled 56 million hryvnias, and in 2019 it increased to 61 million. As follows from the expert report by the Ministry of Regional Development as of 2018 Shakhivska Hromada holds the third place from the standpoint of per capita income among 248 small (with population up to 5000 inhabitants. – ed.) communities in Ukraine. According to the results of 2018, the budget target was 14,8 thousand hryvnias.

— Decentralization has provided with tools for distributing and planning our income, as well as managing top-priority and necessary decision for the Hromada. We faced more responsibility however, we attained more opportunities to realize projects. The funds arriving on our account are more feasible.

The priorities of Shakhivska Hromada for 2019 are as follows: development of small and medium business, infrastructure; provision of quality services and improvement of roads quality. The local management team is planning to implement new methods of energy sustainability, to repair the medical facility and to accommodate the first aid/obstetric facilities, and to renovate community centers in the villages.

— The top-priority is transport connection. Our roads are in somewhat painful condition. We are planning the renovation of two community centers in the villages Volodymyrivka and Nykanorivka. The reconstruction projects are ready. The 80% of funding comes from the state budget and 20% covers local budget. The endowment from the Ministry of Regional Development was directed on the repair of the primary health care unit and new medical equipment. We will proceed along the same lines so that our inhabitants have access to medical services. The nearest town Druzhkivka is 25 kilometres away, and the district center Dobropillia is 30 kilometres away. The weather conditions can be changeable. That’s why the first aid should be available locally.

Volodymyr Kucherinenko has headed the village council since 1992. One of the biggest achievements, in his opinion, is the fact that not a single school or hospital got shut down whithin Shakhove village council. Nowadays, he is working on levelling-off the quality of social services in all villages of the Hromada.

— We used to have kindergartens, schools, primary health care unit, community centers and we managed to keep them working. We didn’t step back and close the social sphere institutions during crisis times unlike other communities that had to do it. We managed to keep them intact. Today’s task is to level-off all 14 villages from the standpoint of the social servieces quality and align their social maintenance. We are striving all Hromada inhabitants to have a comfortable living environment.

In 2014 the village Shakhove, back then known as Oktiabrske, was in the zone of the military actions and received occasional mortar shellings. The head of Shakhivska Hromada Volodymyr Kucherinenko recalls that after the liberation of the village by Ukrainian military forces the situation in the village got way quieter. However, the experience could have influenced the decision to develop the Hromada.

— Sometimes people say: what’s the point in building something, repairing something? The uncertainty is lingering around and what if tomorrow we will have to shovel away ruins. But we have to hope for better. Don’t quit and keep working. It’s not for nothing and will remain here. If to stand still it will be eventually harder to catch up, it is better to create something and then preserve it.

Playgrounds, open-air gyms and youth centers are built in the villages of the Hromada. Volodymyr Kucherinenko tells about the capital repairs of the Shakhiv community center that was renovated after the fire.

— There were only walls. We took a decision on its renovatioin and today it is already repaired. A library and a gym are located there. We purchased musical equipment, rearranged the stage and installed 290 seats.

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The Emergency Center and the power station

At the beginning of 2017, the emergency center opened in Shakhiv Hromada, where a crew of firefighters is on duty 24/7. The most remote corners of the Hromada can be reached in 25 minutes. The head of the Hromada Volodymyr Kucherinenko says that the Emergency Center employs 17 people.

— We have four fire teams, each consists of four members and a ward. The local budget covers their salaries. There is a centralized surveillance console that provides video monitoring of the Administrative Service Center, the administration building and the school.

In December 2017, nearby the Security Center was built a hybrid power station that consists of 32 solar panels. The station is controlled remotely from the town Pokrovsk. The head of the Shakhivska Hromada Volodymyr Kucherinenko says that in prospect Shakhove will be able to switch to autonomous street lighting.

— We ventured the experiment with power optimization and I can tell you that it has proved to be worth it. According to our calculations, it should pay itself off in three years. The Security Center, administrative building and two streets are hooked up to the station. If weather conditions are not favorable and the power goes off we have an option of getting power from the autonomous station. We have accumulative batteries that are sun independent, can accumulate 9 kilowatts in 3-4 hours and hold the charge automatically.

Administrative Service Center

In fall 2018 the Administrative Service Center was opened in Shakhove. The former premises of the hospital were repaired on the expense of the state funding and the equipment and furniture for the Center were purchased on funds from the local budget. The Center consists of reception office, information stalls, service rooms, children’s room, etc. The head of Shakhiv Center Anna Omelchenko says that the Center is providing more than 50 administrative services and their number will be increasing.

— With the use of information stalls our visitors can find information about the required services and paperwork they need to prepare. In the reception office the administrators provide preliminary consultation and guidelines for further actions. After accepting the paperwork the administrators transfer it to the back office to be processed. The passport office is located next door, we will issue ID-cards, new format Ukrainian passport, and travelling passports.

The hub school

In March 2018, the hub school for children from 14 villages opened in Shakhove. The Hromada purchased two school buses for transportation needs. The school principal Halyna Liahusha says that all classrooms are equipped with an interactive board and a projector.

— Earlier the school had a single computer classroom with 15 computers and one interactive board and projector. After the Hromada unifying we have acquired digital classrooms for physics, chemistry, biology, and two computer classrooms. Take a look, absolutely everything is well repaired.

The capital repair of the school was completed within a year. The school canteen, kitchen and gym got newly equipped. The school territory got supplied with illumination and surveillance cameras. The open space library became the zest of the school, school children can both enjoy reading books on-site or borrow them.

— The Hromada purchased a lot of books. So schoolchildren can take any book they are interested in and keep reading it during lesson breaks or in their free time.

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The material was created with the support of the Program “Ukraine – Local Empowerment, Accountability and Development” (U-LEAD with Europe) financed by European Union and its members: Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Sweden.

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