The Schweinfurt Early Bird
The Schweinfurt Early Bird is a weekly compilation of locally and nationally relevant German news. The information displayed here is based on German newspaper articles of the "Schweinfurter Tagblatt", the local Schweinfurt edition of the German newspaper "Mainpost".
Lord Mayor Remele refuses to apologize for remarks made regarding Askren Manor (Feb. 25)
Never before has this happened in the city hall: As a protest for not having been informed about the city’s plans to buy the area of Askren Manor and the taking over of the tank road, which was publicized in Saturday’s local newspaper, the city council members of the SPD, the Left, SWL and the Green Party invited the media to a press conference prior to the city council meeting on Tuesday.
The press conference was held in the reception hall in front of the conference room where the city council meeting would take place. The city council members heavily criticized Lord Mayor Remele’s information/communication politics. They returned to the conference room, after the official beginning at 2:30 p.m., only after being asked several times.
Werner Bonengel and Thomas End, city council members (SPD Party), explained that Lord Mayor Remele had demonstrated such behavior during the past years quite frequently. End called the “relations between the town hall (Lord Mayor’s office) and the city council as “muddy. “ According to the ordinance (local code) the city council, as an institution, is as important as the city administration. Bonengel stated: “With all our power we will insist that “our rights are no longer constrained. “ Furthermore he said: “We do not want to be served a “finished “ product. “
Frank Firsching complained that both projects were never discussed in any of the committees. Sinan Öztürk (both “Left” party) pointed out that the sum of €10 million, which was included in the 2013 budget for the conversion, was not approved in regard to those projects. Several people stated that Lord Mayor Remele was responsible for the statement Mr. Schnabel, Conversion Manager, made in the newspaper and that Lord Mayor Remele apparently is not able to control his administration. In the mean time Remele added both projects to the agenda of the city council meeting, and made it clear, that he would have done so, even without the urgency motion of the SPD city council members. Remele spoke about an escalation; however; that he was not able to research how and why those statements were made in the newspaper since Mr. Schnabel is on a three-week vacation. Remele asserted that no decisions have been made so far and that he will include all committees in the decision making.
The Lord Mayor confirmed that negotiations in regard to the city’s right to make the first offer
for purchasing Askren Manor are ongoing and would be completed in the fall of 2014. He also confirmed that he and other representatives of the city administration and the school office had visited the school building in Askren Manor end of January “to get a picture. “Another visit by Jürgen Montag (Director, city administration) has been scheduled for 6 March. At the end of the inspections, a competition for ideas for urban development of the entire area is planned.
A concept, as basis for the competition, will be on the agenda for the city’s construction and environment committee meeting March 13. Which idea will prevail will be decided by a jury in July.
According to Remele, demolition of all apartment buildings has not been decided yet. The buildings have been renovated; however; their state of repair in regard to contamination have to be tested. Also the layouts of the apartments may not meet the demands of the housing market. Remele stated: “It could be that the apartment blocks will be partially or totally demolished; however; it is not justified to talk about a scandal.”
On behalf of the city administration Jochen Müller, Director, city construction office, commented on project “tank road “. He confirmed the report published in the newspaper to a large extend. The street located between Niederwerrner Strasse and District Road SW 8 (Dittelbrunn-Hambach) should be opened for public traffic this year, if possible. Müller’s cost estimate was about €150,000, which the city and the community of Dittelbrunn would split. The tank road will be blocked for trucks weighing 3.5 tons and more and a speed limit of 50 km/h will be enforced.
City to buy Askren Manor – The Federal Real Estate Agency (BImA) gives Tank Road to communities – in the fall it will open for public traffic (Feb. 24)
When the “Schweinfurt Steering Committee Conversion “—consisting of Lord Mayor Sebastian Remele County Commissioner Florian Töpper and the four mayors of Geldersheim, Niederwerrn, Dittelbrunn and Üchtelhausen and two representatives of BImA—signed the conversion agreement after their first meeting, two breaking news stories were announced: The city will buy Askren Manor from BImA and BImA will give the entire tank road to those communities on whose boundaries it is located. This fall it will be upgraded and opened for public traffic.
The city of Schweinfurt will use its right to make the first offer and will buy the American housing area Askren Manor located between Niederwerrner Strasse and John F. Kennedy Ring. According to the city’s conversion manager, Hans Schnabel, the city has already initiated negotiations with BImA, as representative of the Federal government, accordingly.
According to the conversion manager and real estate manager, Hans Schnabel, planned is a “warm turn-over” so to say from the last American directly to the city, to enable the city to begin with restructuring of the area as smoothly as possible. The turn-over date to BImA will be Sept. 30 this year. The residential area can then become city property promptly. The location will be used for construction of one-family houses as well as apartments for rent and/or purchase.
The city has already adjusted their budget last fall to support this option. According to Schnabel, the city would demolish all apartment buildings. However; the school and youth center, which are in good condition, will be used by the city. Schnabel states: “In case of Askren Manor the focus is on purchase and further use “. In regard to the costs all parties are silent, which is common, as long as negotiations have not been completed.
After the surprising announcement – giving the tank road to the adjacent communities – free of charge, the city will be able to use the street much earlier than expected and can reduce traffic on other highly frequented roads. The city plans to open the road for public traffic, after a relatively short renovation period – at least for POVs, motor cycles and bicycles. Trucks will not be allowed on the road. The road could open for public traffic as early as December 2014, according to Mr. Schnabel.
Of course the city will not be able to totally reconstruct the tank road in such a short time said Hans Schnabel and Jochen Müller, Director, city construction office. However; with guard rails, reconstruction of the road shoulders and filling in some of the pot holes, the tank road can be renovated for about €150,000, according to Schnabel.
Immediately after turning over the road after the official departure of the U.S. Army, end of September, the street will be tested for possible contamination, by having several test drillings done. The city does not want to accept a “Greek present “ from BImA without checking it out first. Should contaminations be found, BImA would have to clean them up first. Schnabel also points out that currently the tank road is not open for public traffic. Only after the turn over from BImA, and after renovation and official opening the road can be used for public traffic which should be the case by December 2014.
Spaenle: Total support for the i-Campus by October – Development begins with Abrams Club (Feb. 21)
The i-campus will be brilliant, said Science Minister Ludwig Spaenle, who was very certain on Thursday during his visit (University of Applied Sciences, Ledward Barracks, Abrams-Club). As reported, the University wants to offer two English-language Bachelor programs in logistics and industrial engineering. The international student life will mainly be on Ledward Barracks, but the former Army officer’s club, the Abrams Club, is a part of the future of the university. Not only because of the new study programs, also because the university actually already reaches its capacity.
Foreign and domestic students shall study together, benefit from each other, come together, overcome language barriers - important experience for work in internationally operating companies as the university pointed out. 100 students start now in October, the project long-term aim is for 3000 students. The university expects a unique feature of i-Campus. The city international life. The industry qualified personnel.
In principle, the project is almost a sealed deal. Details were still missing – but there was a moment of uncertainty: The Bavarian state elections. Spaenles predecessor Wolfgang Heubisch (Free Democratic Party-FDP) was supportive of the project. How do we proceed, was the question for all players. But Spaenle finds this a super project. Together with Undersecretary of State for Interior Mr. Eck, he assured total support. In October, the first students will arrive, Spaenle and university president Prof. Dr. Robert Grebner announced at a press conference on Thursday. The purchase negotiations on the Abrams-Club are underway, according to the Undersecretary Gerhard Eck. “This will be a bridgehead, “ said Spaenle. Cafeteria and student library are to move in here. It seems that the barracks have impressed him.
For more than two years, the University plans the project i-campus, according to Robert Grebner. He is very excited about the new study courses, sees the mix of international and local students as a great opportunity. After all, networking is the motto of the university. He is positive that this “unique offer “ will draw students from all over Germany. Piece by piece, the i-campus is developed, State Ministers Spaenle sees this very positive. We remain flexible. The Ledward compound, construction could start in 2016, offers buildings that are suitable for student apartments. How will it proceed? Purchase negotiations, building assessments, allocating funds in the State budget, jointly create development concepts, are the rough cornerstones. Exact figures are not available (discussions in the Schweinfurt city council in July referred to 85 million Euros for the first construction phase in Ledward, which would accommodate 1500 students). But Spaenle’s statement, our support is “without upper limits “, comes across well, and
that the project will move fast, anyway.
How you go about closing an entire town – Departure of the U.S. Army (Feb. 15)
Brian Adkins, head of the closure team, stated: “We have that joke going – in the end we all will be sitting on camping chairs.”
“The most difficult thing was getting a feeling about the dimension of the undertaking, “Adkins said. “We knew how to operate a garrison. Which building blocks are necessary – but how do you close or deconstruct a garrison? “
Brian Adkins is Garrison Manager, the head of the United States Army Garrison Schweinfurt. After his career as a Navy Officer he started working as a civilian for the U.S. Army. During the leadership of Colonel Michael Runey, the last commander of the USAG Schweinfurt , Adkins held the position of “Closure Officer, “ the man who had to prepare the garrison for closure, now he is Runey’s successor. Together with Sergeant Major Thao Kamakahi-Watson, the military supervisor of the Garrison’s Soldiers and Mr. Klaus Mauder, the Garrison Executive Officer, who serves as Adkin’s right hand in regard to civilian employees and communicating with German authorities, they form the “closure team. “
Brian Adkins compares the process with a “Jenga” game, where pieces which form a block are taking out of the game, one after another, until the remaining pieces collapse.
“It is a balancing act between being forced to close the facilities one by one and meeting the needs of the people. “ Adkins calls this the painful part of the closure process. Klaus Mauder adds: “We are closing an entire town, including everything that comes with the territory, but also a city, where people are living until the last day – September 30, 2014. “ You cannot please everybody.
Adkins added, “If I can save two million dollars by closing a facility/program which is used by only five people, I have to do that. “
Thao Kamakahi-Watson commands the Soldiers, who, together with their families, will gradually move to more than 60 garrisons all over the world. At the beginning there were 4,000 Soldiers now there are 657 left.
“At stake are entire families, their belongings and their entire living conditions, “ said Kamakahi-Watson.
The Soldiers receive their orders 90 days prior to their moving date, and that’s how long the process takes. This includes not only packing up furniture and other belongings and paper work but also about children. The American school year in Schweinfurt is longer than the school year in the States. Therefore, families with school-aged children are moved either during summer break or after the end of the school year, making sure that no child has to repeat a school year, according to Adkins.
Many programs/activities offered within the garrison only function as long as there are enough people using them. Other facilities shrink proportional to the number of customers, for example, medical facilities. The beauty salon has closed a while back. However, the Public Affairs Officer Nathan Van Schaik, and his team—which keeps the garrison audience up to date and gives advice in a “closure blog “ on the web site, and on Facebook—published alternatives in downtown Schweinfurt. Van Schaik asked the Soldiers who like to venture going downtown and interacting with the locals to give those, who rather stay within the garrison, tips on how to go about it.
When the movie theater closed, Van Schaik asked the owner of the “Filmwelt “ to show more original versions of American movies. They were willing to do so, until the number of American customers went down.
Adkins added: “It’s a blessing living in Schweinfurt. We encourage our Soldiers to go downtown and use the great entertainment offered. Visit the wonderful museum and participate in cultural life. “
Those who always loved to leave the garrison to get to know the country and its people regret the drawdown. Kamakahi-Watson said, “We as Soldiers are used to having to move again and again, but, yes, we love Germany and therefore there will be sad moments. “ Recently she visited the USA where she met a veteran who had been stationed in Schweinfurt in the 1950s. “He could not stop telling me how much he loved Schweinfurt. “
While the garrison is closing down, city and county and the surrounding communities are ready to begin the conversion process as soon as possible. Klaus Mauder who has been working for the U.S. Army for 40 years said: “We do everything possible to support a smooth and timely process. “ In regard to the civilian work force, American as well as German employees, the garrison is aiming for the same smooth transition. While the German employees, about 500, will be employed by a transfer company for six months, the 150 American employees in Schweinfurt and Bamberg are offered a number of programs with typical American acronyms.
“We look at each individual employee and try to find him a suitable position in another European garrison, “Adkins said.
September 30 is getting closer, the tension increases. Brian Adkins is certain that everything will be completed in due time which he likes to get confirmed from others.
“I ask colleagues who have already experienced base closures, for example in Baden-Württemberg, how does it look like here in Schweinfurt and they always reply: ‘It looks pretty good what you are doing there.’ “
The closure team has taken a close look to other garrison closures, such as Würzburg, Kitzingen and Bad Kissingen. They also asked those closure teams to tell them everything, even those things that were not included in the final closure report and which could go wrong. One important lesson learned is reducing abandoned vehicles. In all garrisons which closed so far Soldiers just left their cars behind to save the disposal fees. Therefore, there is no fee in Schweinfurt. And not only that, the Army even will pick up the vehicles. A similar problem exists with pets. Thanks to an offer made by the garrison vet clinic, to find homes for pets or to take care of them until homes are found, so far there were no dogs or cats left behind.
Adkins said, “We would like to reduce the feelings which Soldiers have – that everything is too troublesome, and therefore we make it as easy as possible for them. “ There is a disposal point for substances such as paint, lacquer or waste oil.
In Conn Barracks there is the “famous building 40, “an administration building where Soldiers can complete all of their paper work in one go—from personnel issues, passports to returning library books.
Buildings which are being returned must be locked and have to be totally empty, which is not always the case. Brian Adkins is a feared inspector. When he inspects such a building he first asks for a ladder to inspect the attic where he finds an old shelf or a box with old video cassettes now and again. Adkins smiles: “If we say the building is empty, then it is empty. Do we overlook something? Sure. The Soldiers are smart and always find new hiding places. “
Adkins ensures: “Contamination is not expected. “ The Army adheres strictly to German environmental laws. Records are meticulously maintained and all reports are forwarded to German authorities. Klaus Mauder adds: “And where we know that there is hazardous waste, we take care of it, for example the sand at the shooting ranges which contains led is being properly disposed off. “
And then there is the matter of furniture. “Which we are getting tired of “said Adkins. Each chair, table and cabinet has been accounted for and has been categorized by quality. There is probably no piece of furniture in the garrison, which does not have a white sticker, providing information as to its quality, etc. Some of it will go to other U.S. Army garrisons, some of it will be offered in large numbers to commercial bidders, some will be donated and the remaining items will end up in bulk trash.
The good furniture from Sergeant Major Kamakahi-Watson was already taken to Ansbach. Now she is using some not quite so good furniture which, once she leaves, will go to Klaus Mauder, who in turn will send his good furniture also to Ansbach.
Adkins said “We have that joke going that we all will end up sitting on camping chairs. “ In spite of all the stress there are also aspects that are fun. Adkins added, “It’s like building sand castles as a child, and then destroying them – it’s kind of fun. “