What has happened so far
Caguas Mayor discusses the city’s recent achievements
By Richard Gutiérrez
The island is currently undergoing numerous reconstruction projects. However, many believe there should be more projects underway, considering Hurricane Maria struck six years ago. The topic of the island’s reconstruction has been a contentious one, as is the process for initiating specific projects. Transparency is another issue that many criticize the government for. However, this does not seem to be a problem for Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres. On Wednesday, he hosted an event at the Caguas’s Fine Arts Center, inviting various public service providers, citizens and former Puerto Rico Governor Aníbal Acevedo Villa.
During the event, the mayor shared a message about the “achievements” the city has accomplished throughout 2022-2023, including reconstruction projects related to hurricanes Maria and Fiona.
The hall was packed with people as the mayor made his classic entrance on the red carpet before delivering his message. He discussed topics such as entrepreneurship, infrastructure, road stability, education, public security, and various other subjects. One of the highlights of the past fiscal year is the investment of $10 million in 148 million pounds of asphalt to repair the roads. “This is the largest road-paving investment in the past 11 fiscal years. We understand that more is needed, but we are making progress and continue to seek the best solutions for Caguas,” said Mayor Miranda Torres.
Another noteworthy project highlighted at the event was “Move Freely.” Transportation is crucial for a city to function effectively. People need to reach their destinations on time, which, in turn, drives the local economy. “Move Freely” was described as an initiative for collective public transportation, working in collaboration with the Department of Citizen Mobility.
“We already had a public transportation system in place, but the significant difference is that, since the beginning of this year, the service is completely free,” noted Miranda Torres. He added, “during the first six months of ‘Move Freely,’ along with new trolley routes, we transported approximately 60,774 passengers around the city. This initiative has been highly successful and allows residents to save money on gas and other transportation expenses.”
Regarding initiatives for citizen mobility, Miranda Torres announced plans to expand services and renew vehicles. Two auctions worth almost four million dollars have already been awarded for this purpose. Additionally, they will invest $5.9 million for six new trolleys and seven projects to improve the fixed-route system and establish safe routes for cyclists. These funds were approved this year by the Federal Highway Administration and the Highways and Transportation Authority.
In terms of the city’s agenda for establishing and conserving green spaces, Mayor Miranda Torres stated that over $4 million has been invested in maintaining green areas on streets and municipal pathways. They have also successfully reinstated the “Recycle from the Heart” program in 10,000 households, fulfilling their commitment to citizens.
Of course, the subject of the city’s electrical grid could not be overlooked, as it remains a contentious issue on the island. In this regard, Mayor Miranda Torres had some positive news to share. They have undertaken a special project to enhance street lighting in the city, with an investment of $73,000. An auction has already been held for improvements to solar public lighting in the Villa Turabo urbanization, which will receive an investment of $1.74 million. This new modern system offers better lighting and battery efficiency. Additionally, an innovative concept for public lighting on the city’s avenues has been developed, with an estimated investment of just over $8 million between FEMA and CDBG-DR funds. The designs have already been submitted to FEMA for approval.
The mayor also stressed the importance of city security and the improvements made to the security department. A few months ago, The STAR reported on the installation of new security cameras throughout the city, along with investments in police equipment and drones to enhance security and surveillance. This emphasis on security was reiterated throughout the event, highlighting the city’s ambition to recruit new personnel. “Our goal is to increase our municipal police force. Cadets receive a monthly salary of $1,850, which increases to $2,353 once they graduate as Municipal Police. We are offering a competitive salary that is among the best candidates will find on the island,” Mayor Miranda Torres stated.
Finally, Miranda Torres went into detail about how funds from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) have been allocated to the city’s residents. “Specifically, we are implementing a plan that includes the investment of $66.8 million in ARPA funds. Among the projects and programs carried out with these funds are improvements to community water service stations, post-pandemic health services, a housing rehabilitation program, home assistant services for older adults, donations to resident associations, services for victims of domestic violence, financial assistance to citizens for late utility payments, and tutoring services for students,” concluded the mayor.