55 Puerto Rico city halls to be rebuilt with $28.5M from FEMA
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $28.5 million to repair 55 city halls throughout Puerto Rico, the agency’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, José G. Baquero, confirmed.
The funding includes nearly $5 million to the Municipality of Bayamón for its city hall facilities which include the Municipal Assembly as well as the Braulio Castillo Theater. Of these funds, more than $3 million are earmarked for hazard mitigation measures designed to seal roofs and anchor air conditioning equipment.
Other repairs such as improvements to lighting and electrical system components have already been completed, the agency confirmed.
Meanwhile, more than $832,000 was obligated to the Municipality of Vega Baja to repair its historic city hall, which dates to 1924 and is about to celebrate its centennial. According to Vega Baja Mayor, Marcos Cruz-Molina, these obligations, and repairs are part of the city’s economic development and direct service to the citizens.
“That’s why it is so important to keep it in the urban center and for our visitors to enter a building that complies with all safety and health codes,” said Cruz-Molina, who added that in the future the plan is to create a permanent exhibition with these findings as well as its old clock and bell system.
Six other city halls will be repaired from earthquake damage, including the ones located in Mayagüez, Peñuelas, San Germán and Ponce. Likewise, the city halls in Sabana Grande and Utuado that together encompass more than 300 years of history, FEMA officials said.
The repairs in Utuado will provide a space where residents can go to seek medications and services for the bedridden.
“Residents need to be provided with continuous assistance,” said Ineabel Medina, who lives near the town square, while describing the importance of recovering her city hall.
Under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), more than $508,000 was designated to the Municipality of Moca for the rehabilitation of its city hall and another allocation to the Municipality of Arroyo.
HMGP funds are aimed at taking key measures to reduce the loss of life and property in the event of future disasters.
At the Moca City Hall, built in 1979, the structure will be modernized to comply with current building codes and the building’s structural system will be reinforced to improve its resistance to hurricanes and earthquakes.
The building offers, for example, Municipal Revenues Collection Center (CRIM, in Spanish) services and tax collections, as well as liaisons with federal programs such as Housing and the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), among others. The repairs are currently in the design phase.
At the Arroyo facility, the annex building will be waterproofed to improve its resistance to flooding. The Emergency Operations Center operates there, government officials confirmed.
“City halls are the first place that people visit to look for assistance and services. The repairs to these government centers will give structural resiliency to allow for the functioning of the offices during emergencies in benefit of the population. In COR3, we’re committed to moving the reconstruction forward, serving as allies to the municipalities, while we comply with federal and state regulations,” said Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of COR3.