Last September, the Urban Areas and Cities Amendment Bill got the Cabinet’s nod, paving way for the creation of two new cities in Kenya.
Nakuru and Eldoret towns, which are considered the third and fourth largest towns in the country, were earmarked for elevation to city status.
Following the good news, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui early this year stepped up an ambitious push to ensure Nakuru town has facilities that matches city status.
Already, the county has rolled out several projects to ensure the town gets the status by end of this year.
To upgrade infrastructure in the town, the devolved unit jointly with the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) in January this year, embarked on a Sh2 billion road upgrade to link several residential and commercial centers in the town.
About 22km of roads will be done at the end of the project.
The roads undergoing an upgrade include those that serve Menengai and the posh Milimani estates, the ones accessing Nakuru GK Prison, London estate and part of the western side of the town.
They also link Industrial Area, Kaptembwa, Bondeni, Naka, Free Area and Mwariki estates of the eastern part of the town.
Mr Kinyanjui says the project is intended at increasing road network and mobility and reducing congestion in the town.
“My administration is leaving nothing to chance to ensure Nakuru gets the city status. We are also in the process of beautifying the town. All public parks, including Nyayo Gardens, will undergo rehabilitation,” Mr Kinyanjui said.
The county has allocated about Sh20 million for beautification and greening of Nyayo Gardens in the heart of Nakuru town.
The county administration has directed owners of buildings in the town to repaint them and ensure they are well maintained as part of the ongoing beautification project.
Owners of buildings are required to ensure they are well maintained , including ensuring that pedestrian walk ways are improved.
They are also required to install proper garbage disposal mechanisms, to ensure drainage systems around their buildings comply with the Public Health Act.
They are also required to ensure the rain water gutters are fixed to enhance water harvesting among others.
Once Kenya’s cleanest town, Nakuru is keen to regain its lost glory as it moves to attain city status.
In 2011,Nakuru was named the cleanest town in East Africa by a United Nations agency.
However, later the town was choked by poor urban planning, faulty drainage system and inadequate sewer lines especially in the informal settlement areas of Kivumbini, Kwa Rhoda, Kaptembwa Flamingo, Kaloleni and Bondeni among others.
And as the county seeks to restore the town’s lost glory, residents say a lot needs to be done to fixed including expanding the sewerage system already reeling from the pressure of a fast growing population.
“The county government must improve sanitation and sewerage services especially in the informal settlements of the town. Sanitation is still a major challenge in parts of the town, “said Mr John Mengo a resident of Kaptembwa.
According to Ms Beatrice Kimani a resident of White House Estate, the county also needs to take charge and ensure estates like Milimani, which was once a haven of peace and serenity are not turned into a noisy neighbourhood.
“Invasion of the posh Milimani by developers, is devaluing the once upmarket estate. This is a worrying trend to residents, “she told the Nation in an interview.
And majority of residents interviewed are happy with the idea of the town becoming a city, but want the county government to first streamline its services.
Other issues ,residents expect the County to tackle include; the planning of the town, garbage disposal, street lighting, eco-friendly amenities among other things key to city status.
Residents also want the county to work jointly with the national government to address the issue of housing at the informal settlement areas that dot the town.
Former council estates such as Kivumbini, Flamingo, Kaloleni among others are set to be demolished to pay way for high rise buildings to cater for the increasing population.
The county has also demolished structures illegally erected on road reserves as part of the beautification project.
Already more than 200 illegal structures including kiosks, garages, car wash areas and containers, that blocked water ways and encroached road reserves have been destroyed.
“Major towns including Nakuru and Naivasha have in the past suffered from perennial drainage blockage arising for encroachment on road reserves and illegal structures. My administration will not spare them. We want to deal with the problem of drainage system to avoid flooding incidences as Nakuru seeks to attain city status,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
Taxi operators will also be required to ensure their vehicles maintain uniform colours and operate from only designated places.
The directive will improve the “noisy market” that is the CBD with mushrooming iron sheet shops and and unplanned matatu terminus.
This according to the county government will be pull down and traders given alternative places to conduct their businesses.
The County government jointly with the Rift Valley Water Services Board have already embarked on rehabilitation the water supply network within Nakuru Town which started early this year.
The Sh250 million project within the town is aimed at improving water supply.
To fix traffic congestion in the town, the county government is set to construct a modern alternative Matatu cum bus stage where all vehicles operating from the town centre will be relocated to.
County Executive Committee member in charge of Infrastructure Engineer Lucy Kariuki says this is part of a raft of new measures to end congestion in the town.
The stage will be constructed on land leased from Kenya Railways.
Interchanges that have been constructed along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway are also set to ease traffic flow to and from Nakuru and spruce up the face of the town.
The interchanges at the Nyahururu and Njoro turnoffs are already complete.
The interchanges are expected to end perennial traffic gridlocks along the busy highway.
The multi-billion projects were funded by the World Bank.
County Trade, Cooperatives and Tourism Executive Committee member Peter Ketyenya says the city status will attract new investors and create thousands of employment opportunities.
“It is easier to start a business in Nakuru town compared with five other populous urban areas in Kenya because of a reduced tax burden. Here is an opportunity for everyone and investors should seize the moment, “said Ketyenya.
The Nakuru County business community is also upbeat that the city status will greatly boost industrial growth and economic development in the region.
“The upgrade of the town will boost development, attract local and international investors to the town," said Nakuru Business Association chairman Mwangi Muchemi.
However, the business community warns the county government against raising the rates and taxes charged once the town becomes a city. Experts say, once the town becomes city, rates and taxes might will be raised to enable the city to support its operations.
“A city must have a solid revenue capacity to sustain its operations. This might trigger hiking of parking fees and other taxes, “says Mr John Kipkorir a governance and devolution expert.