True: Rio Naranjo Development Association must repair district soccer field wall

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The wall around the soccer field in Río Naranjo, Bagaces fell in June 2018. Bagaces representative Xinia Treminio said that the Río Naranjo development association and the athletic committee are responsible for the wall’s collapse and should pay to repair it.

After reviewing city reports and interviewing those involved, the Voice Fact Checking determined that this statement is true.

Treminio made the statement during a city hall meeting on February 5. She and Luis Enoc Barrantes, substitute representative, are residents of Río Naranjo and said they are concerned about who should pay for the damages, whether it’s the city or the development association’s responsibility.

Both officials agreed that the district’s development association should pay for it and not the city.

According to a report presented by City of Bagaces legal advisor Rodrigo Flores, damages should be handled by the development association.

Why? Flores said that just because the city directed and supported the construction of the wall with funds approved specifically for the project, it doesn’t mean that the city assumed the commitment to pay for damages to the wall after the fact.

In other words, when the job was finished they didn’t plan on it falling down and there are currently no funds for the project.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that if development associations are for the public good then they are also private actors and using unapproved resources for this type of work could constitute a misuse of public funds (which is illegal for the city),“ Flores explains in the document.

The Voice Fact Checking checked the general administration law and article 190 states that “public offices (in this case city hall) must respond for all damages caused by their legitimate, illegitimate, normal or abnormal functioning save for cases out of their control such as third party fault.”

Jeannie Atencio, city engineer, wrote a report establishing that the Río Naranjo development association and the athletic committee made changes without the city’s consent and without professional oversight, which weakened the structure when rains began.

The wall was built in 2006 and Atencio was responsible for overseeing the last phase of construction in December 2015. The city put support columns and a net around the field during the last phase.

On June 12, 2018, two-and-a-half years after the job was complete, the engineer got a call from someone saying the wall had collapsed.

“I was surprised when they told me that the wall couldn’t take the first rains of the season (2019), which seems strange to me since the structure stood through the extreme rains of Hurricane Otto in November 2016 and Nate in October 2017,” the engineer says in the document.

According to Atencio’s report, the work done by the assocaition and the committee consisted of leveling the field with the help of Coopeguanacaste, modifying the structure with masonry and leveling the ground with a laser tool. The work was done in March, April and May 2018.

Esteban Alfaro, an attorney who specializes in public law, said that a technical test of the modifications is enough to prove that the development association is responsible.

“It doesn’t make sense to ask the city for the money, because the city already invested in it,” the lawyer said.

With this and the documentation in mind, the development association and the Río Naranjo athletic committee must take responsibility for the wall.

Both groups must decide whether they use their budgets or seek out new sources of financing, such as donations.

The Voice Fact Checking is a project that checks public speeches made by mayors and representatives in the province. Our team collaborates that statements made by the officials at city council meetings is based on information, data and verifiable facts.