From the town council… dog tax, library fees, changing rooms and icebergs

This week saw the town council in Oberursel sit for the last time in 2012.

With major topics such as the new swimming pool, the budget, childcare costs, and even the station kiosk dealt with previously, this could have been a sitting to tidy up loose ends, and in many ways it was.  Except that all of those topics managed to come up again, the latter without even being remotely on the agenda.

At the beginning, the question and answer session revealed that although dogs are required to wear a dog tag to show that the tax for them has been paid, this is not checked unless there is a problem with dogs fouling a particular area.

We learnt of the confusion over the annual cycle races on 1st May, one of which the town is listed as a sponsor for, although the money comes from other sponsors that the town finds.  Sub-sponsors if you like.  It does not come out of the town budget.

Confusingly a budget is assigned to the two races (see page 663), and the other one announced on their website that 2012 would be the last year.  Apparently that announcement may have been premature.

One party even asked why the old indoor swimming pool had not been pulled down yet, begging the question if they had been paying attention during the previous sittings when it was made clear that demolition work would not begin this year, as the heating for the outdoor pool is still in the basement.

Oberursel LibrarySome of the motions put forward by the town’s executive went through without any further discussion whatsoever, such as raising the annual library fee from €10 to €15 and doubling the fees for late returns.  An interesting addition to the library will be the free WiFi usage for anyone who has a lending card, or €0.50 per half hour for everyone else.

There was also little discussion about raising the level of dog tax in the town, although it remains to be seen if a relaxation of the rules for dogs coming from the Tierheim is introduced.  The tax is now set at €72 per year for the first dog, €108 for the second and €144 for every further dog for their owner.

And the fact that the regional government has released funds for childcare means that the previously agreed raise in fees will be put back by 6 months, with a new “sibling” rule (Geschwisterregelung) to be discussed with parents before it is decided on.  Although they unanimously voted on this, most of the parties had to have their say first.

Then we were treated to a history lesson by Dr. Eggert Winter of the SPD, on the subject of the local electricity supply.  Quoting from both the Oberurseler Kurier (1994) and the Taunus Zeitung (1996 and 1997), he explained how at one point the town had been interested in making money by taking over the supply from the then provider.  Only a short time later they sold off the street lighting for a fixed-term period to the electricity supplier and signed a 15 year contract for the supply itself.

“If we had taken the electricity supply under municipal control back then, we would have been financially better off” he said, pointing out that even in the free market the majority of people tend to stay with the local provider.

The town has now negotiated a new 20 year contract for both the electricity supply and the street lighting, valid until 30th June 2032.

Now up until this point, everyone had pretty much been in agreement with one another on carrying the motions.  But after some land sales and purchases had been approved, the red rag of the evening came up.

Because there are some things in Oberursel, that will always cause a debate the flair up.  And mentioning the “Altkönigsportplatz” is one of them.

The OBG had tabled a motion asking for the building on that particular sports field to be repaired and to protect it from the winter elements.  The reason for this is that the heating has been turned off by the chimney sweep, and the toilets, showers and changing rooms are apparently now unusable.

The dilemma is, that the building may be pulled down next year if the land is sold off to fund the new swimming pool, but technically this is not yet decided and other land of the same size should be sold first, with the decision due next year.  So the town may well invest in something that they only need for this winter.

Now the kiosk at the station came into play.  Andreas Bernhardt from the OBG quoted Charmaine Weisenbach from the CDU as saying “contracts are to be kept to” during the debate about the kiosk contract last month, as there is a contract with the sports club in question.   He also pointed out that the SPD to this day still claim that they want to keep the sports field and make it more attractive to use on their website.

“The petition to hold a referendum on the kiosk at the station shows that we do not listen to the voices of the citizens enough” he concluded.

Although it emerged that the decision of the sports field may be closer than expected, with Christina Herr from the Green party stating that we may know in 6 to 8 weeks whether the field will be sold in the summer, and CDU, SPD and the Green party agreeing that the heating will be repaired once they are certain that the field is staying as a sports field, the kiosk was now somehow playing an unexpected part in the debate.

An iceberg - © Herr, referring back to the petition, said that the politicians would do well to wait and see what happens, and then decide how to handle the result.  She promised that the Green party will deal with the petition, even if it does not  have the required number of signatories.

Dr. Winter however took a different view and criticised the OBG of jumping on the kiosk bandwagon to gain votes.  “The newspaper articles only reflect the tip of the iceberg”, he said.  “If the citizens knew everything, their opinions would be different.”

So we conclude the year by wondering what it is about that kiosk that we do not know.  If the petition gets enough signatures and a referendum is held, then maybe we will find out.

As for the motion on the building at the sports field, that was turned down when everyone except the OBG voted against it.



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 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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