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submitted by James Victor Prineas on 03.10.2009

Interview Mayor Koukoulis 2009

Interview Mayor Koukoulis, 22nd September, 2009

>Kythera-Family.net
First of all thank you for finding the time to speak to us again this year - it's always an honour to interview the mayor of Kythera.

>Mayor Koukoulis
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let the visitors to your site be informed about Kytherian policies which are in practice now and what we plan to do in the near future.

>Kythera-Family.net
I'd like to start today with questions from our site members in Australia and America, but before I do that, I have a question: you're a trained archaeologist, and we know what an interesting island archeologically Kythera is. Isn't it tempting for you sometimes to leave your administrative duties and pursue the profession for which you studied?

>Mayor Koukoulis
As I have promised the Kytherian electorate, I am totally devoted to my duties as the mayor of Kythera, and although I like very much and have a passion for research in the area of archaeology, I will not spend time with archaeology before my duties as a mayor have finished some time in the future.

>Kythera-Family.net
Do you enjoy your work as mayor?

>Mayor Koukoulis
I do very much, and I often feel not just happy but very excited when I finish a very difficult job for the island. Whenever I encounter many difficulties during my efforts for the development of the island, I feel even more elated when the work is completed. 

KNF
It must be very difficult for you, having as you do on the electorate of Kythera expecting so much from you on the one side, and on the other your party and colleagues in Piraeus who want you to pursue their interests as well?

>Mayor Koukoulis
Not really. I think that the Kytherians, wherever they are, love the island, they belong to this island, and I feel that I must consider all of them equally, no matter where they live. For this reason, I try to meet Kytherians who come from Athens and Piraeus, and from Australia or the US. I even had the opportunity to meet a Kytherian last year who hailed from Latin America. So I was really honoured to meet with people who visit and love our island from anywhere in the world, who want to meet the mayor to discuss their problems or their ideas about the island. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Now to the questions submitted by visitors to our site: The first one comes from Kathryn Cassimaty in Sydney: She asks why a road is being cut through a small mountain on the way down to Pelagia. She has calculated that the journey from Potamos to Pelagia will be shortened by only about 20 seconds yet the public works cost for the road must run into millions.

>Mayor Koukoulis
First of all I must make clear that this work wasn't undertaken by the municipality of Kythera. It was undertaken by the Normarchia of Piraeus. In my view this construction was not necessary as it removes just two curves from the road and isn't important. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Do you know how much the work is costing the Greek taxpayer?

>Mayor Koukoulis
If I am correctly informed it costs about 1 million Euro including the road between Ag. Haralambos and the Nursing Home.

>Kythera-Family.net
Do you know the rational behind the works?

>Mayor Koukoulis
It began before I was elected as a mayor, in 2006. It was something that couldn't stop. I don't know why they wanted to do it. It would have made much more sense to widen the existing road from the Galani spring towards Ag. Pelagia, which is quite narrow. When a truck meets even a private car it is tight enough, never mind a truck and a bus or another truck! But it is almost finished now and we can only wait on its completion. But I will suggest to the Nomarchia of Piraeus that prominent signs are placed at the end of the straight road as there is a very tight turn to the left so one must slow down rapidly to avoid any accidents.

>Kythera-Family.net
Now to the next question, from John Stathatos of Strapothi regarding the new sewerage plant above Kapsali: Why, after all that complicated and expensive construction, including a unusually wide and fancy access road, is it still not operational?

>Mayor Koukoulis
It is near to completion. The main construction itself is complete, but there are a two or three minor but important details which are still being finished. For example: a fence is still to be put around the structure. Secondly the pipe which directs the clean water from the complex to the sea is not ready yet because the green-light has not been given by the Commercial Maritime Ministry. 

>Kythera-Family.net
I would have thought that all permits would have to have been issued before any of the construction began, as it is with building a house in Greece.

>Mayor Koukoulis
The permission must have been given, but unfortunately the study for the construction didn't cover this important point. And I must add that the municipality of Kythera didn't have the study in our hands to see the details. It was in the hands of Prefecture of Attica which did not inform us about this important matter. We put pressure on the Prefecture of Attica to work faster and as a result we discovered the problem quite late in the process. In any case we have done our best to get the missing approvals from the various ministries. Apart from that, this construction, although it looks big for Hora and Kapsali, has be built with enough capacity to service Livathi and even other villages in which the sewerage lines are still to be constructed.

>Kythera-Family.net
What does the current sewerage system look like? 

>Mayor Koukoulis
About half of Hora's houses have a private sewerage tank and the rest goes into the existing sewerage plant with a primitive processing system. Actually, very primitive, which is why the new works was so necessary. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Constructing a pipe from the new sewerage works out to sea is surely quite a big job still?

>Mayor Koukoulis
It will take, after approval, about 2 to 3 months. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Greek months, or normal months?

>Mayor Koukoulis
(Laughs) International months. I'm saying this because the money exists — it's not something we still have to find.


>Kythera-Family.net
When do you expect the approval to finally come through?

>Mayor Koukoulis
In my view by next Easter everything will be completed. As far as the municipality of Kythera is concerned, and to the extent that our municipality is involved in this construction, not only have we done everything possible, but we will put more pressure on the construction company and on the Prefecture of Attica, to shorten the time needed for the completion of this system.

>Kythera-Family.net
But even when it is completed half the houses in Kapsali and Hora will still have to be connected anyway.

>Mayor Koukoulis
After the construction is completed, according to law, all the houses not connected are obliged to be connected...

>Kythera-Family.net
at their own cost

>Mayor Koukoulis
... at their own cost, to the new sewerage system, within one month. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Is that physically possible given the amount of houses to be connected? Where will the diggers and workmen all come from?

>Mayor Koukoulis
There are quite a lot of digging machines on the island, and many of them small so they can operate in the narrow streets of Hora, and they can do the work in a short period of time.

>Kythera-Family.net
And the connection to Livathi?

>Mayor Koukoulis
We are working very hard to organise the funding of the connection between Livathi and Hora. Apart from that, we have worked hard in order to add a small construction within the bigger system to accept the sewerage-waste brought by trucks from the centre of the island towards the South. 

>Kythera-Family.net
And what is the total capacity of the new sewerage works in Kapsali?

>Mayor Koukoulis
The capacity is the maximum for the entire island – almost twenty thousand people. That is, in August, when the island is full, the new works can take everything when it is in full operation.

>Kythera-Family.net
So you intend to hook up Potamos and the rest of the north of the island to the system as well?

>Mayor Koukoulis
No, this would be too expensive. We have undertaken a series of studies to build a new sewerage plant at Potamos. Already we are more than half-way in that study.

>Kythera-Family.net
Are any of these studies accessible to people outside the employment of the council – does the average Kytherian have access to them?

>Mayor Koukoulis
When they are completed, and the file is ready, a copy can be given to anyone who is genuinely interested.

>Kythera-Family.net
Would the council have any objections to our website publishing such a study?

>Mayor Koukoulis
None at all. Nothing is secret. On the contrary, we want very much to inform people on everything we do and your help is most welcome.

>Kythera-Family.net
One of the most active members of our Website community has a question regarding Hora. He has property just outside the town limits of Hora and because of the island's zoning laws his ability to divide and build on his large piece of land are severely restricted. Are there any plans to extend the limits of Hora?

>Mayor Koukoulis
At the moment we are trying very hard to complete the existing urban plan of Hora, which although it has been published in the government's paper, still contains many mistakes and is not completed. And for this reason many land owners within Hora cannot build. When this plan is completed, and all the mistakes corrected, then we can start a new study for the extension of the boundaries of Hora. Until then it is not possible. I can't give you a time-table for this work, but certainly, all being well, the first plan will be ready in 2010. And then it might take a couple of years to work on the extension of the boundaries of Hora.

>Kythera-Family.net
Another related question: are there any plans to extend street lighting between Hora and Manitohori?

>Mayor Koukoulis
Our plan is to put lights between settlements which are close to each other such as Karvounathes-Kondoulianika, Fatsiathika-Livathi, and I don't exclude the possibility to add lights between Manitohori and Hora, but because this area is under archaeological supervision and protection, we need a special study for this. And depending upon this study and the costs involved, but as far as we are concerned, yes, we would like to link those settlements close to each other with street-lighting.

>Kythera-Family.net
Another question: Do you have any idea of how much private construction work is being undertaken by people who are "foreigners" or by Kytherians who live abroad?

>Mayor Koukoulis
I'm afraid I can't give you specific information. What I can say is that all the building permits are issued by the Normarchia in Piraeus. In my opinion the percentage is quite high because there is a lot of construction taking place on Kythera at the moment. I would say that perhaps 30% of the private constructions are done by foreigners or Kytherians living outside Greece.

>Kythera-Family.net
Now a question from London: Why doesn't Kythera have a cohesive marketing concept such as other island and regions in Europe have?

>Mayor Koukoulis
This year - 2009 - we started to present Kythera at tourist exhibitions as an island which is not only beautiful and very attractive for its crystal clear sea and beautiful beaches, but as an island which, although in the south of Greece, is very green and has a beautiful natural landscape which make the ideal environment to tourists to visit. So connecting natural elements with monuments and traditional settlements we try to create a view to the visitor which is different from other islands. So we don't just say "come to Kythera for the sun and the beaches", but for other equally important and interesting things which you can also enjoy in the spring, autumn and even the winter. In addition we have done a kind of short study to find out what is being done in the area of keeping the environment around Greece in good condition. We have come to the conclusion that Kythera is a clean island in comparison to many other Greek Islands which are, quite frankly, simply dirty. And we have done a lot of work in this particular field. And we want to promote this as another positive quality of Kythera. We are doing our best to keep it clean. 

>Kythera-Family.net
What is your long term vision for Kythera for the next 10 years?

>Mayor Koukoulis
My vision is to keep the island as clean as possible and to protect its environment as much as possible. This is in-line with EU principles which require the environment to be considered as a primary priority. That also includes no big constructions, try to keep, as the ancients said, the "metron" – everything in good measure. No constructions which do damage to the island. That means avoiding huge and ugly hotels, big ports for massive ships, and of course, avoid streets being turned into high-ways. People come to my office who ask why we don't create a highway from Karavas to Hora so we can travel from the one to the other in six or seven minutes. They don't understand that the island's character would be destroyed by such things. On the other hand we started to widen the central road of the island in order to make it much safer for the drivers. My goal within the next few years is also to create a Kythera with better living standards and quality for the people here. I'm not just referring to the new hospital or the sewerage plant in Potamos and Agia Pelagia, but also things like a cultural centre, a modern football and basketball playground, an Ethnographical Museum, a Municipal Library with a Municipal Archive and of course guaranteeing the water supply for drinking and farming. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Are there currently any long-term plans for additions to the water supply?

>Mayor Koukoulis
We are half-way through a study about the building of a dam in Ochelles, in the north-west. It should be completed within the next few months. It is a complicated study but never-the-less it should be completed in the next few months. We will then apply for money from the EU which is specifically for small dams and water supply infrastructure. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Next question: If they were to build large wind-farms on the island, would that change any zoning or land-use regulations.

>Mayor Koukoulis
As I told you in the interview last year, it will be impossible to build huge wind-farms on the island. Those who think differently are out of touch with reality. I repeated this a few days ago at a meeting at Kytheraikos Synthesmos at Hora during an interesting conference regarding sustainable development, tourism and the environment: whatever happens regarding wind-farms on the island will only happen with the consensus of the local people and apart from that, together perhaps with other local institutions, a proper study will have to be undertaken first. There is no danger of building any of these things for at least the next 5 or 6 years. So we have the time to do a good study which will be our "weapon" against such plans. In conclusion, we are on constant alert.

>Kythera-Family.net
The plans are already on the table though: when we did our last interview applications totalling 150 Megawatts of wind-generation had been submitted to the energy authority. This year the number has increased to 341 MW, which translates to about 200 huge wind-towers. It doesn't look like the those companies applying share your pessimism of the time-frame of approval and construction.

>Mayor Koukoulis
Let me give you a metaphor: there might be an hotel with 20 beds. Around the 15th of August there are perhaps 500 applications from people to stay in this particular hotel. But the hotel has only a capacity of 20 beds – so only 20 applicants will be satisfied. The same applies for the wind-generators. If we have 1000 applications does that mean we will have 1000 wind-generators? Of course not. One study of a private company will not be of the same weight as one by a public authority like the municipality of Kythera. For the next five, six or seven years no-one will be able to materialise any plan even of just 10 wind-generators because the connection between Kythera to the Peloponnese and northwards is so weak that it can't handle the amount of electricity current produced. That connection is too expensive and too difficult. And there are no plans by DEH - the electricity authority in Greece - to start on such a project in the coming five years.

>Kythera-Family.net
Even if the companies were to come up with the funding for the connection themselves?

>Mayor Koukoulis
Even if they were to finance the undersea cable to the mainland, the cable from Neapoli up to the middle of the Peloponnese must be done by DEH, and they have no plans to do this. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Would you personally welcome the construction of wind-farms on Kythera?

>Mayor Koukoulis
We have made it clear last year, absolutely clear, and I don't see any reason to waste time on it again.

>Kythera-Family.net
Just for clarification: last year you said that you thought that, because of the expense the companies would have in laying an undersea cable, it would require them to construct at least 100 wind-towers on the island to make the investment viable. 

>Mayor Koukoulis
That would not only be too much, it would be unacceptable. I underline this word "unacceptable".

>Kythera-Family.net
And your council is united in this?

>Mayor Koukoulis
According to the opinion of my colleagues which form the majority of the council, all share the same position.

>Kythera-Family.net
Onto another question from our website-users: "Has the Mayor noticed that the prices of food on Kythera are up to twice that of those in Athens and the mainland? Does he think that the extra transport costs account for that or that there could possibly be a price fixing agreement by supermarket owners to keep the costs ridiculously high?"

>Mayor Koukoulis
I haven't any concrete information which proves that there is an agreement between the supermarket owners. In my view the prices aren't so high if we consider that Kythera is quite far from Attica where the majority of products come from and considering the fact that we don't get products from Crete, which is nearer. All the Cretan production goes directly to Attica. Perhaps some products are more expensive than on other islands. But considering the fact that we are a small market for 9 months of the year, I can't say the prices could come down much. In a few products we may see a difference if the supermarket owners come to an agreement to buy a few things together – to place their orders together in Attica. Perhaps then some things could be cheaper, but I don't know how easy something like this would be. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Perhaps the supermarket owners aren't interested in getting a good deal for Kytherians anyway – their interest is to maximise their profits?

>Mayor Koukoulis
I am not the person who can put pressure or force them to change their policies. But I could ask them if they would consider working together to reduce the prices. 

>Kythera-Family.net
Some of the visitors to Kythera-Family.net have noticed that there are a few sharp curves in the road just south of Karavas – in two cases more than 180 degrees – where there are no street signs to warn of them. Who should they approach with this information so that appropriate signs can be put in?

>Mayor Koukoulis
It's not only at Karavas where things need improvement. At this moment a study is being undertaken by a specialist to tell us where we can make improvements in the signage. And he will also study how we can improve the traffic on the island so it will be better and safer. For example, where we can make one-way road, where parking spaces should be created. This study will be ready before Christmas.

>Kythera-Family.net
And does the municipal council have funds to implement the recommendations of the study?

>Mayor Koukoulis
When the new budget for the island is passed we will be able to order the signs. If the cost of the recommendations is very high we will do it in two parts. One part in the first few months of 2010, and the second for example after the summer.

>Kythera-Family.net
Are there any plans to change the regional status of Kythera so that it becomes part of the Southern Peloponnese or to the Ionian Islands, where it would enjoy the funding benefits of being part of an island or "underdeveloped" region rather than receiving its funding together with the urban prefecture of Piraeus, to which it now belongs?

>Mayor Koukoulis
What I can tell you is this: in January of 2009 the general secretary of the prefecture of Attica came to Kythera for 2 and a half days. On the 6th of January he was invited by me to visit my office in Hora. The General Secretary, in front of the members who were present of the municipal council and other people, announced that the prefecture of Attica has guaranteed 18 million Euros for Kythera from the EU-Funding out of its "Fourth Funding Plan" which is for the period up to 2015. This actually means that Kythera can use 18 million Euros for the sewerage system, water, for the hospitals, for improving the rubbish disposal system, for roads, etc. And for this reason we don't share the view that if we were within the boundaries of another prefecture we would get more money. I have put a lot of work into convincing the General Secretary of the Prefecture that Kythera, our island, has special needs. And because of this 18 million Euros will be spent for the island. As you can understand this is an exceptionally large amount of money. I believe that no one could say that, because we belong to Attica and not to the Peloponnese, Kythera is getting less money than is really needed.


>Kythera-Family.net
What is the status of the promised money?

>Mayor Koukoulis
This money is just waiting for us. For this reason we have started the study for the small dam, for the sewerage plant for Potamos, for the recycling system and hygienic disposal system. And on the other hand we have also started doing studies for improving the roads. I am convinced that, within the next 5 or 6 years, the island will be, as a result of this EU funding, completely different. Our target, as I mentioned above, is to keep the island’s character and at the same time to achieve sustainable development. 

>Kythera-Family.net
You mentioned before that all of these studies are not secret. To whom can we go in your council to get access to the finished studies so we can translate them and put them on our website for the wider Kytherian community?

>Mayor Koukoulis
Mr Kostas Stathis, the engineer of the Municipality, can get you all the studies which have been completed thus far.

>Kythera-Family.net
Mr. Mayor, thank you.

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