From the town council: Swimming, Sewage, the Station, and the Saga of the Bärenkreuzung

The last meeting of the town council in Oberursel was a long, drawn out affair, which even prompted Mayor Hans-Georg Brum to refer to part of the debate as a “Gebetsmühle” – literally a “prayer wheel”, ie. a discussion that was taking a long time and going round in circles.

It was also the point in the council year for treasurer Thorsten Schorr to make his annual budget speech, the debate on which was deferred to a later date after the Bürgerversammlung about the proposed savings.

Part of that budget may have played a role in the OBG asking what the pre-requisites are for town employees taking on committee roles in charities such as the Förderverein Taunabad during their work time and whether this was not something that the town was doing voluntarily and hence should possibly be reduced or stopped altogether under the budget constraints.

Mayor Hans-Georg Brum answered that the town only takes on such rules if it has an interest in the charity, because it is providing an income in some shape or form for the town.  He commented that this was something that happened in other towns as well, and was not a voluntary service.

Councillor Andreas Bernhardt (OBG) was not entirely happy with this answer, and asked who decided if something was in the town’s interest, and was told that it was a joint decision between himself, Alderman Christof Fink and treasurer Thorsten Schorr.

Sewage costs

One unlikely topic in the midst of everything else that is going on in the town was the motion to raise the cost of sewage or “Abwasser”.  €6 million is apparently needed to upgrade the treatment works, since some parts of the machinery are now so old that there are no spare parts available for them.

Councillor Andreas Bernhardt (OBG) argued against the changes, pointing out that people are using less water and that in general residents in Oberursel use less water than those in Bad Homburg.  Since the population of Oberursel is set to grow, more people would mean more income.

But Councillor Dr. Eggert Winter (SPD) said the OBGs point of view was one of populism and a tactical move.  “Nobody wants to pay more” he commented, but that the cost of treating sewage had to be met by the fees taken from the population for doing so.

In the end the OBG tabled a counter-motion with a new set of fees, still higher than previously, but less than the fees the town’s executive were proposing.  However only the OBG and “Die Linke” supported it.

Returning to the main motion, the OBG and FDP parliamentary groups opposed it, but the votes of CDU, SPD, the Green Party and “Die Linke” were enough to carry it through and raise the price of waste water from €2.08 to €2.29 per cubic metre, meaning an estimated €31.50 more to pay each year for the average family of four.

Childcare places

The subject of childcare is becoming a regular feature, whether it is about the cost or, as in this case, the number of places.

The motion on the table was for the town to support the building of a new Kindergarten by the VzF organisation in Oberstedten.  However the OBG were not happy with the need for the additional childcare places, which will number around 100.

Councillor Robert Rethfeld criticised the fact, that other approved building plans by a different organisation had ultimately not been built, and that there were – according to the social and culture sub-committtee – 60 places available with childminders (“Tagesmütter”) in the town.

But Alderman Christof Fink defended the decision, saying that parents wanted a choice of where their children were cared for after their first birthday.  He cited the new flats being built in the town, which required an additional three Kindergarten groups.

Councillor Kerstin Giger (CDU) referred to complaints that the town had received, that they were unable to find the childcare places that they wanted, and said that the statistics showed there was a necessity to build the new Kindergarten, without it affected the work of the Tagesmütter.  Those statistics where presumably not available in April when she called for a study to be carried out to see if new childcare places were necessary.

Her change of heart was welcomed by Councillor Christina Herr (Green party), who even went as far as to point out that the two of them were seldom so much agreed on something.

In the end the motion was carried with all parties voting in favour except the OBG.

Counting the cost of the station

Now it is no secret that Oberursel has the “Station of the Year”.  However what was maybe unknown was that doing up the area around it cost €400,000 more than originally planned.  This includes work on the new subway (“PU-Ost”), raising the platform, the area in front of the station, the new bicycle rack and work in the Lenaustraße.

Councillor Andreas Bernhardt (OBG) commented on how good the station looks, but could not resist comparing the project to the new Bishop’s residence in Limburg (which is considerably more over budget!).

But those €400,000 will have to come from somewhere, so €130,000 will be taken out of the budget for the new footpath in the Nassauer Straße and a further €270,000 will be taken out of the budget to develop the area “An den Drei Hasen”.

The Bärenkreuzung

And talking of things being more expensive than planned, the crossing known as the “Bärenkreuzung” is due to have a makeover in the near future, and already it is set to cost €60,000 more than was originally planned.

But when asked to approve the additional expenditure, the council first debated the issue at some length.

Councillor Georg Braun (OBG) saw no need for the crossing to be revamped, just for part of the footpath to be extended, leading Councillor Dr. Eggert Winter (SPD) to criticise the OBG for standing still and having no idea of how the town is developing.

It was Councillor Rainer Voß (FDP) who then brought up the fact that not only was more money now needed, but also the amount of work to be done had been reduced.  Indeed, Mayor Hans-Georg Brum explained that the project no longer included the Liebfrauenstraße which had been due to be completely re-surfaced.

But it was Councillor Frank Böhme from the Green Party who saw a need to introduce “Aufstelltaschen” at the traffic lights – areas for cyclists to gather in front of the waiting cars.

Whether or not those are part of the plan was not really explained, although there was some discussion as to what was necessary and what work could be considered a luxury for the town.

Luxury or not, the additional expenditure was approved by the CDU, SPD, Green Party and Die Linke, with the OBG voting against it and the FDP abstaining.

Work on the crossing begins on Monday, 18th November, 2013 and is expected to last around 6 months.

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.

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