Who says that we can’t afford a swimming pool?

The Bürgerversammlung about the new swimming pool last week appears to have a lasting effect on many in Oberursel, because in the space of just a few days the political landscape in the town has changed dramatically.

Let me try and explain the past few years in simple terms first:

1. The indoor pool in the town was closed because the roof was deemed unstable.

2. The coalition of CDU and FDP wanted to sell of a sports field (Altkönigsportplatz) and the swimming pool car park to finance a new building, and an architect came up with a design to include a sauna and modernise the outside pool at the same time.

3. At the town parliament elections last year, the SPD, Green party and OBG were all behind the swimming pool, but did not want to sell of the sports field, and although the CDU remained the largest party in the parliament, the SPD/Green/OBG coalition gained a majority.

4. SPD/Green/OBG drew up a coalition agreement that they would build a new swimming pool, but would borrow at most only 20% of the capital needed to do so and would not sell of the sports field.

5. It was then decided just to build a new indoor pool and leave space for a sauna, moving work on the outdoor pool to a later date.

6. Planning permission was given, changes to Bebauungspläne were approved, and companies started giving quotes on the cost of actually building it.

7. A few weeks ago they even held a press conference to announce that building work would be starting soon.

You could say that everything was going swimmingly, until the town’s treasurer explained why the town could not afford to build it.

The council chamber wall in the Rathaus

Fast forward to last night’s town council meeting, and everything has be turned upside down.

Selling the sports field is a real possibility again.

The OBG announced that they would not be supporting the motion, primarily due to the state of the town’s finances and citing the possibility of the next budget not being approved and Oberursel coming under control of a higher level of government.  Georg Braun, OBG group chairman, compared the situation to that in Greece and even pointed out that they had tried to move towards a cheaper building, but claimed that the swimming club (SCO) and lifeguards’ club (DLRG) had not supported them in this endeavour.  He reiterated that the party would not support selling off the sports field.

The FDP also announced that they would not be supporting the motion, because even though the field may be sold the income is not going to be used to renovate the outside pool as had been the case when they had been in coalition with the CDU.  They would be prepared to change their mind if the entire project was carried out as original had been planned.

For the CDU Jens Uhlig explained that after the treasurer’s statement last week the party was not prepared to vote for the swimming pool as things stood, but would not support the amended motion with the sports field in it.  At the same time he pointed out that the town must still save money.  He was also very critical of the OBG, accusing them of never really wanting to build the swimming pool in the first place!

Finally, he was full of praise for the Green party for taking a very difficult decision.

Indeed, that decision was probably the biggest shock of the night for many – the Green party actually agreeing to sell off the sports field as building land and going against their own manifesto.  Christina Herr, their chairperson, said quite simply “Oberursel needs a swimming pool” and although the decision between a swimming pool and a sports field was frustrating, she recognised the amount of support that the swimming pool project had in the town.

“Let’s start building it today” she said, but warned at the same time that the coalition with the OBG could not continue as if nothing had happened.

The SPD were also forced to re-consider their election pledge in order to get enough votes together to carry the motion.  They too had to accept selling off the sports field if it meant getting the swimming pool finally built.

And so it was that the CDU, Green party, SPD and Die Linke voted to build a new indoor swimming pool with 36 out of 45 votes, something Christina Herr called the “swimming pool coalition”.

There are now two lists of piece of land that are to be sold off to finance the project, lists A and B.

List A is worth €13,800,000 and list B is worth a further €18,300,000.  List A includes the swimming pool car park.  List B includes land around the new Willy-Brandt-Straße, the Mountain Lodge and the land occupied by the small animals breeding club (Kleintierzuchtverein).

The motion that was carried contains the following paragraphs:

“To ensure the financing of town investments e.g. for renovation work, the road network or investments in child care in the coming years, a further piece of land of about one hectare is needed in addition to those listed in list B.”

“If it is not possible to obtain planning permission for an alternative piece of land of this size by the middle of 2013 then the Altkönigsportplatz will be made available for building on.”

So there we have it.  Building work is set to start next Monday when the outdoor changing rooms will be demolished and Oberursel should have a new indoor pool by 2014.

Dr. Eggert Winter, the parliamentary group chairman for the SPD, said in his speech before the vote was taken “this is a good day for Oberursel”.

I am sure that the swimming club (SCO), the lifeguards’ club (DLRG), and the schools in the town will agree with him.  The OBG may beg to differ.

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

Comments

  1. Gerd Krämer says

    Dear Graham,

    as i could not attend the council meeting last night I’m very grateful to read your objective report.
    Much more informative than in the local newspaper. I would like to sent a copy of it to my personal friend Andrew Lloyd, CEO of Rushmoor Borough Council. I’m sure he is very interested in whats happening in Oberursel.

    Greetings
    Gerd Krämer

  2. Franz Zenker says

    This article is a masterpiece of accurate journalism. Thank You !

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