True: AyA must repair the streets it tears up

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The city halls of Guanacaste have a problem with the Costa Rica sewer and aqueduct institute (AyA). They say it fixes pipelines, but leaves the street looking like a battlefield. 

Cañas Mayor Luis Fernando Mendoza said the city has to use its own money to fix holes left behind after AyA jobs. They even changed their original 2019 budget and found ¢50 million to fix holes in the street affected by the institute, according to the mayor. 

“We can’t be using more resources to clean up behind AyA and fixing holes. AyA has to take responsibility,” Mendoza said.

The Voice Verifies fact checked the mayor’s statement and it’s true. AyA must repair the streets after a job. 

Article 12 of the Construction law says that any entity that damages public property must take charge of repairs. This rule also allows cities to demand a solution from the culprit. 

AyA general manager Manuel Salas confirmed that it’s the institution’s responsibility to return the street in its original condition, whether its dirt roads, pavement or any other material. 

Salas said that the cost of repairing a street is included in the institution’s budget. “When we work with contractors, it is clearly stated in the contracts. That’s the responsibility of the contractor.” 

If AyA knows, what’s the problem? 

Cañas’s complaint isn’t unique in the country. In 2010, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the City of Puntarenas and ordered AyA to fix repairs that were poorly done. 

Puntarenas city hall said in an injunction that AyA damages streets “in good condition” and doesn’t perform good quality repairs.

“More damage because of AyA’s poor repairs, where they usually excavate, repair a leak and put the excavated material back, contaminated, without any type of compression and without laying a layer of asphalt,” the city said in the document.

Bagaces mayor William Guido agrees. He says AyA uses material that doesn’t have the required specifications for the street to turn out well. They also take a long time to conduct the repairs, so the street gets wet and becomes harder to fix.

“They leave it exposed to the elements, the rain comes and traffic starts to be a problem because of the holes. The surface gets damaged and we have to open a bigger hole to remove the moisture and leave it as it was so that it doesn’t sink,” Guido said. 

The manager of AyA said that these conflicts happen because the streets are often in poor condition and AyA’s jobs make it worse. “On other occasions, the timelines for the jobs may be different (between cities and AyA) and the need of city to intervene,” Salas said. 

The lack of order at AyA complicates the problem since the institution doesn’t have an updated map of its piping. City of Cañas roadway engineer Jorge Sandí says that not knowing where affected pipes are delays their work and causes them to break pipes that are in good condition. 

“It’s usually the oldest officials who know where the pipes are and at what depth, because they were there when they were installed, but there was no geographical registry indicated where they are,” said Cañas engineer. 

Salas, the AyA manager, admitted that the current maps don’t have all the necessary information and said that the institution is creating detailed maps in order to make jobs easier. 

When Institutions Don’t Talk

Both AyA and the cities agree that they don’t coordinate well. Sandí says that this problem happens all over the country and that local governments are the ones who end up paying. 

Anytime a resident has a complaint, city hall is the first place they call even though it may not be their responsibility. The city ends up paying cause there is no other option. Needs need to be met,” Sandí said. 

In order to solve coordination problems, AyA held a meeting with the mayors of Guanacaste in the presidential palace in May. They discussed possible strategies so that AyA jobs don’t interfere with streets paved by cities and vice-versa. 

“That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to have to tear up a street at some point, but we can minimize the work of both parts. That’s best,” Salas said.