Why Oberursel can’t afford to build a new swimming pool

The Stadthalle was packed full on Wednesday evening for the “Bürgerversammlung” to discuss the new swimming pool.

Hans-Georg Brum (Mayor)

Hans-Georg Brum (Mayor)

It all started off quite well, with the mayor Hans-Georg Brum asking the question “if we don’t build it now, when will we?” and pointing out the value of the new indoor swimming pool for the schools in the town and in general for children, youths and older people, stressing the fact that it was not just for the swimming club (SCO) and the lifeguards (DLRG).

With a nod to the financial problems he asked the politicians in the town to stand behind the project, claiming that if everyone wants it to happen, somehow it will be possible.  For this he received a round of applause.

The next presentation was about the building itself, but finally led to the calculation of how the project is going to be financed.  For the first time, the public were shown a list of the pieces of land that are to be sold off to raise the capital.  Or at least, the roads in which these pieces of land are in.

Perhaps most interesting at this point was however the estimate for the running costs.  Based on an entry price of €4 for adults and €2 for children, the pool is set to make a loss of €550,000 per year, although this obviously depends on how accurate the estimated number of visitors is.

It was left to the town’s treasurer (Stadtkämmerer), Thorsten Schorr, to deliver the bad news.  He made several important points:

Thorsten Schorr (Treasurer)

Thorsten Schorr (Treasurer)

1. About half of the pieces of land that are to be sold off were already planned anyway to other costs in previous years, except that they were not sold then and the money was spent anyway.  Now, he claimed, we are going to spend the money a second time.

2. Selling this amount of land in a short space of time is going to be difficult, as it is far more than the average amount that is usually sold off in a year.

3. The town used up its reserves two years ago to balance the annual budget, so there are no reserves left to pick up any additional costs in this project.  Even now, the annual income from tax and other charges does not cover the running costs of the town.  A loss of €9 million is expected for 2012.

4. The town currently has a long-term debt of €43 million and in the last year has needed to use a €16 million overdraft to keep things running.

At some point during this speech there was total silence in the hall, perhaps making it the most poignant part of the evening.  But he too receive a round of applause at the end of it.

The audience in the Stadthalle

The audience in the Stadthalle

And then the discussion began, with a very valid question: if the town was unable to sell off the land in recent years for other projects, how do they expect to sell it off at the right price now?

The swimming club (SCO) in particular made their feelings known during this part of the evening.

So next week it is up to the town council to decide whether to take the risk and build the swimming pool anyway, so that schools, clubs and everyone else can go swimming there again outside of the open-air pool season, and before it gets any more expensive to build, or whether to keep things as they are and balance the books first.

To help them decide, those present – around 450 people – were asked to “vote” for where their priorities lie.

78% said that it was important for them to have the project completed, with 69% even saying that it should be built even with the current financial situation.  Interestingly, 70% were also prepared to help personally, either through financial support or voluntary work.

If that’s the case, then maybe it will be enough to persuade the councillors to go ahead with the project.  We’ll find out next week how they decide.


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.


  1. Thanks for the update.

  2. Franz Zenker says

    Thomas Schorr did not say that the money is spent a second time. The question was, if the the money coming from the sales of land is spent on the old debts or for the future debts.

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