NEWS

Municipality of Nea Makri grows along with the quality of life for expanding population

Nea Makri, Eastern Attica’s second-largest municipality after Markopoulo, has become a model for housing development and rational growth, its finances all in order and with a modern concept of local government and future prospects. In recent years the municipality has seen its borders extended, as more and more Athenians choose to make their permanent home there. The population has risen from 15,000 in 2001 to 18,000 today, while housing construction has grown by 50 percent in the past five years compared with the previous five-year period. Nea Makri has great natural advantages, situated as it is between mountains and the sea, and for the past few years it has had Mayor Iordanis Louizos at the helm. Louizos, a pulmonary specialist who is a third-generation resident, decided to enter public life in 1998 on a «neutral» ticket and received nearly 52 percent of the vote. In the next election in 2002, he was returned with 53.6 percent on a joint ticket that covered the entire range of the political spectrum. He is now preparing to seek a third term. «When we took over, there was no organization or infrastructure. The municipality was not able to meet current challenges nor could it set policies that would enable it to emerge from outdated mind sets,» he told Kathimerini. Illegal building After seven years in office, older and wiser but more determined than ever, Louizos claims that the council’s most important achievement has been the inclusion of tens of hectares in the town plan. «After much effort an entire district of 100 hectares has been included and approval given for a further 200 hectares. A General Zoning Plan has been submitted for approval by the Athens Organization. The plan will open the way to the inclusion of more areas which amount to 800 hectares. This will mean the end of illegal construction and make way for the planning and construction of public spaces such as roads, playgrounds and pedestrian precincts.» The council has already received the green light for the construction of two schools and two kindergartens. A gym, two primary schools and another kindergarten are also being tendered. Water supply to the town is still a problem. The network is either very old (up to 45 years), leaking or non-existent, said the mayor. Recourse has been taken to the Athens Water and Sewerage Company (EYDAP) but no action has yet been taken, although the problem is urgent. The municipality, along with a development company it has recently set up, hope to have the entire network included in a European Union funding program. Already 3 million euros has been spent on replacing water pipes in the Nea Voutsa district, but there is still a need for rainwater channels and a waste treatment plant. Most of the municipal projects are carried out with EU funds. Work at the old American military base cost 5 million euros, while 2 million was spent on opening and widening roads and building pedestrian precincts. Another 2 million went toward flood protection works. Other projects carried out by Louizos include six playgrounds, a model children’s center at Zoumberi and 1 hectare of public spaces. «During the first five years of our term we had a 50 percent increase in construction permits over the previous five years,» said the mayor. «That indicates the enormous prospects in the area and the problems that need resolving. We have to welcome new residents in the best way possible, to guarantee a quality of life for all residents and also provide integrated services.» Louizos made it clear that he has no further political ambitions. Politics does not attract him as a career. What he wants to do is help his neighbors and leave his own mark on projects being carried out despite bureaucracy and the indifference of many of the powers-that-be.