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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

FEMA provides new alternatives for Orocovis, Yabucoa



FEMA Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero

By The Star Staff


Communities evolve and their needs change. Faced with this, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides the options of alternate or improved projects to meet their new realities.


Two projects in the municipalities of Orocovis and Yabucoa demonstrate these alternatives with a total obligation of nearly $5.2 million.


In Orocovis, an alternate project was approved with an obligation of nearly $953,200 to demolish a former Head Start center to turn it into a batting cage. The project is located at the Arnaldo Hernández Sports Complex, named after a beloved athlete from the Saltos neighborhood.


The new concept will benefit nearly 150 families and aims to continue promoting different types of sports, especially among the youth.


“The complex has several areas, and it will now have a batting cage, an alternative for improving the batting skills of our children and youth,” said Marlon Meléndez Ayala, the municipality’s planning director.


Under FEMA’s Public Assistance program, an alternate project is one where the applicant decides not to restore the pre-disaster function of the damaged facility and chooses to change it, as long as it is permanent work that benefits the same community. Meanwhile, an improved project restores the pre-disaster function and adds improvements or changes to its pre-disaster design.


“These projects show that our agency is focused and committed to achieving the most practical solutions for the particular situations of the municipalities and their communities,” said FEMA Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero. “Likewise, we emphasize the importance of these works complying with established requirements and standards to withstand future disasters.”


The Orocovis project, which is in the design and bid planning stage, includes demolishing the center, clearing vegetation, preparing the site and applying asphalt. Additional work also entails the installation of a multi-lane batting cage netting system and automatic batting machines, air conditioners, lighting fixtures and metal fencing. An award of nearly $19,200 was allocated for mitigation measures such as anchoring systems for air conditioning units.


Miguel A. Pérez Rivera, the Saltos neighborhood recreational leader, noted that the facility where the batting cage will be constructed is already used by softball, baseball and soccer teams.


“It is widely used by the community and people use it for exercise and health wellness,” he said. “For example, Alexander Torres, the first Puerto Rican to win the San Blas Half Marathon, trains at this facility every morning.”


In Yabucoa, meanwhile, FEMA awarded over $4.2 million for an improved project at the diagnostic and treatment center (CDT by its Spanish initials) located in the Pueblo neighborhood.


The center’s administrator, Mariángela Alvarado Soto, said the improvements and compliance with current building codes ensure quality, excellence and safety for patients, staff and medical faculty.


She also noted that having a facility in optimal condition generates an efficient, productive work environment and better service.


“In addition, it provides the opportunity that, should an atmospheric or other event arise, it can serve as a shelter, operation center and ensure that patients continue to receive their treatments,” Alvarado Soto said.

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