Polissya Stadium in Zhytomyr used to be a corrupt feeder. How we put an end to this
Vitaliy Bunechko, Head of Zhytomyr Regional State Administration
Recently, a stadium was opened in Zhytomyr after reconstruction. A nice event - and at the same time a vivid example of how the "system" is trying to put you in its frame, and what it costs to break it.
Polissya Stadium is the central sports arena of the regional center and the home ground of the only football club of the First League in Zhytomyr Region. And also - a strength test for an experienced employee and a fairly young head of the regional state administration. I learned about this long-term construction, which was also called a monument to corruption, a couple of weeks after I was appointed head of Zhytomyr Regional State Administration in August 2019.We were preparing for the opening of another stadium, Spartak Arena, and I was surprised to learn that there is another large sports facility in Zhytomyr that had been under renovation for almost 15 years.
For me, such a construction marathon looked rather strange. Therefore, when journalists asked me three days later when to wait for the opening of the Polissya Stadium, I assured that we would complete it in the nearest future. I promised the same during the opening of "Spartak" on August 22, 2019.
At that time, I still did not understand that over the next 1.5 years, this "completion" will become my mission and curse as head of the Zhytomyr Regional State Administration. It turned out that there is still a lot to be completed in the region, and the condition of the facilities varies from the long-term stadium only in terms of time. 2-3 years against the background of 15 does not look so awful, but for residents of villages and towns who used to see unfinished constructions, it is equal to eternity. Law enforcement agencies had to be involved in some facilities to prove to former contractors that the quality of their work did not meet the terms of the contracts. The trials are still ongoing.
Legacy and resolution
What did we inherit from Polissya Stadium? The facility where the football team last played before the renovation 16 years ago. An object that was built without a project that meets the required complexity category. The available permits could allow to build there only a kiosk. In general, the lack of a project, funding problems, and "COVID-19" restrictions that prevented the contractor from working properly were all piled up like a snowball.
The icing on the cake was the lack of a central scoreboard. According to documents, it was purchased several years ago for 1.7 million hryvnias. However, where it is stored and who is responsible for it was unknown. How we found it in warehouses in Kyiv, delivered to Zhytomyr, retrieved, collected and connected is a separate semi-detective story.
Regular meetings with the Polissya fan club added a fresh note to this bureaucratic collapse. For two years in a row, in autumn and winter, we met to talk at the stadium or near the building of the Regional State Administration about when the team will play its first match at home. Fireworks in the snow or promises to "chop" me personally, if the stadium is not completed, certainly looked impressive.
A few weeks after the appointment, it became clear that there would be no quick solution in this case. But it was necessary to put an end to this feeder for officials worth more than 165 million hryvnias, which survived eight heads of the region.
Together with law enforcement agencies, we initiated an inspection of the progress of work and the use of funds. At the end of 2019, they received a revised construction project, passed all inspections and examinations. Then the question arose of where to find funds to complete the work and for commissioning of the sports facility. On the one hand, the construction of sports facilities in the region was included within the framework of the President's program "Large Construction". On the other hand, as the stadium took so long to build, it could not be included in the list of projects funded by the State Fund for Regional Development. We had to convince the deputies of the regional council of the need to allocate funds from the budget.
We had to take unconventional steps. In order for the contractor to better understand the significance of his work, he was invited to one of the meetings with fans. Who were extremely articulate when they described the shortcomings they saw in the stadium and what to expect if the work is not completed on time. Even under such conditions, the opening date had to be postponed twice.
However, on March 26, 2021, FC Polissya finally played its first home match at the stadium in Zhytomyr.
From now on, the arena can host First League football matches, and the athletics arena - competitions of national and even international levels.
The case with Polissya Stadium turned out to be very useful. First, it can teach officials that the desire to do a good deed cannot always be fulfilled with the desired speed. Secondly, any bureaucracy and irresponsibility cannot be a reason to abandon the promise.