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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Cayey mayor: Recent storm highlights vital role of towns in emergency response

Cayey Mayor Rolando Ortiz Velázquez

By John McPhaul

Cayey Mayor Rolando Ortiz Velázquez made an analysis of the management of situations related to a tropical depression that passed through the eastern parts of Puerto Rico over the weekend, bringing to light the importance of the municipalities in handling such an emergency situation.

“Once again it is evident how the experience, resources and personnel of the municipalities have been important in the attention to the communities and acting quickly in emergencies,” said the former president of the Puerto Rico Mayors Association in a written statement issued Monday.

Ortiz Velázquez referred specifically to the meteorological event where some municipalities in the eastern and southeastern regions received between six and eight inches of rain over the weekend.

“Although these rains alleviated the drought to some extent, some rivers reacted, some jumped their banks and my fellow mayors in the east handled the situation quickly and effectively. For this dynamic to be consistent, the necessary resources must be guaranteed,” he said. “They are services for the communities and this has been demonstrated. In fact, over the weekend wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour or more were reported in various parts of the eastern half of the island. If there was damage to homes or businesses, that will be known in the next few hours, because when these situations happen, people go to the municipality to seek help.”

Ortiz Velázquez’s statement about municipal resources came with heightened relevance in the new fiscal year that has just begun, because with the approval of the budget provided by the Financial Oversight and Management Board, island mayors saw their demand for a two-year moratorium on the elimination of the Equalization Fund rebuffed.

The fund allocates money to municipalities through remittances from the Municipal Revenues Collection Center, commonly known by its Spanish acronym CRIM, which would disappear in 2024 according to the certified fiscal plan. The mayors asked the oversight board for a moratorium, which was not granted.

All the mayors of Puerto Rico, gathered in the Mayors Association (elected by the Popular Democratic Party) and the Mayors Federation (elected by the New Progressive Party), have been consistent in maintaining that, with the elimination of the Equalization Fund, some 24 city halls would lose between 50% to 70% of their income, and another three would stop receiving 70% or more of what they currently receive.

Among the most affected municipalities are Adjuntas, Barranquitas, Comerío, Florida, Las Marías, Maricao, Maunabo, Orocovis, Patillas and Villalba.

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