The HZ Forum was an opportunity to directly compare the two mayoral candidates for Kirchheim, Manfred Koch (SPD) and Axel Schmidt (CDU). The elections will be held on May 15.
Kirchheim – experience or a breath of fresh air – is a topic many times on the HZ forum on the mayoral election moderated by the editor Kai A. Struthoff. Manfred Koch, the mayor of Kirchheim for 24 years, scored points with his composure, while Axel Schmidt repeatedly accused him of passing problems and not solving necessary projects in time.
The audience, which also included numerous representatives of the SPD and CDU, was always applauded for this. But Koch was also applauded several times for his statements.
“It’s still a lot of fun for me,” assured Manfred Koch. And there is still a lot of work to do, for example with the designation of new construction areas. He is also motivated by the fact that in the last local government elections so many young people who wanted to contribute their ideas were willing to work.
“A mayor’s life is a catcher,” Koch explained. Sometimes the day starts with a kick to the shin and then with the sheer joy of butterflies in the stomach.
He has always had an interest in politics and therefore decided to take this opportunity to change the situation locally, Axel Schmidt explains why he took up local politics six years ago.
It turned out very quickly that he wanted to be the mayor of, inter alia, due to numerous small and big problems in all districts, some of which have been waiting for a solution for years. For example, Schmidt mentioned a common room whose entrance was to be renovated six years ago and which no longer even has heating.
Koch explained the delay with prices that had increased as a result of generous state subsidies to the municipalities (Hessenkasse, KIP, etc.) and had not been re-regulated.
“Are you accusing Mr. Koch of being sloppy?” Moderator Kai A. Struthoff asked. “Yes, you can say that,” he replied. Since it’s been there, much has been decided but little has been implemented.
administrative / communal works
For years, the parliamentary group of the CDU has been criticizing the fact that important projects in Kirchheim are implemented by municipal utilities and thus are beyond parliamentary control. There have been many calls for the dissolution of the city works.
Axel Schmidt would not go that far, at least not as long as there is no expert opinion available from an external consultant whom he deemed unavailable a few years ago. Basically, however, he criticizes working in administration and on the construction site. – The mayor has to make sure that the store is working – he stressed.
Mayor Manfred Koch announced the first results of an organizational inquiry for the second half of the year and introduced himself to his administration. “It’s just not true that things are going crazy,” he emphasized. “The administration is fine.” He also rejected the allegation that projects via communal municipalities will be withdrawn from access to the Sejm.
The commune council decides on the budget, including the communal budget. “It’s all there,” he said. Orders would then be issued by a works committee, in which both the factions and knowledgeable citizens would be represented. In other communities, community management takes care of this. In response to a citizen’s question, he explained the composition of the works commission as the controlling body of municipal municipal enterprises.
Kirchheim not only had to slip under the state’s protective umbrella due to high debts, but there were also problems for many years with a shortage of annual bills and unapproved budgets.
These problems have now been resolved, Manfred Koch explained. All annual accounts up to 2020 are available for audit and their assessments, when available, are consistently positive. The delays in Kirchheim came because the municipality worked cheaply and did not outsource the transition to a dual entry system, Koch explained.
Axel Schmidt pointed out that 13 years have passed since the transition to two-input systems. “It can’t be like that. New leadership is needed,” he said.
He has also committed to ending the horse tax, which brings in just € 2,000 a year. The dog tax could be discussed. Bed tax doesn’t hurt anyone, and it’s a reasonable thing, Manfred Koch said. Readers asked about taxes.
The same applies to the situation in the commercial areas. All the larger areas are filled and only the small corners are free, both candidates explained. Considering the landscape and quality of life in Kirchheim, Koch does not consider new commercial areas and estates as a top priority.
Rather, it is in favor of the settlement of subsequent retail stores. There are relevant stakeholders. Axel Schmidt would also like to see more company locations. It is clear to him that the Jagdhof would have to be demolished. Koch first wants to wait for the outcome of an ongoing investigation to determine if restoration is also possible.
Kirchheim is not a classic vacation spot, but still has a large number of overnight stays, although several hotels have closed in recent years. Challenger Axel Schmidt has criticized that the community looks too weak, both on the Internet and in brochures.
He also wants to review membership of the Rotkummelland tourist working group, which he believes does not provide enough in return for the money the municipality pays for it. Schmidt sees the future of tourism in the Knüll Nature Park. On the other hand, Mayor Koch views Little Red Riding Hood’s country as successful and sees new opportunities at Knüll Nature Park. He also noted the good cooperation with the Baumbach forest administration.
In Kirchheim, the situation in Seepark is followed with concern, where holiday homes are still available to campers, but the hotel has been taken over by the Hindu religious community. While Koch insisted that the lake would remain open and freely accessible to all, Schmidt and other guests pointed out fences, barriers and parking fees.
Agreements with the religious community were to be made in writing, Schmidt complained and criticized in principle that the community was not involved in the sale of the hotel. Koch said the previous owner and Bhakti Marga had agreed not to disclose the negotiations.
Axel Schmidt and the audience also criticized the ongoing nursery project and offers for young families. Schmidt accused the mayor of not taking action to plan a new nursery and construction areas much earlier.
The need was predictable, and the facility in the green field was in a better position. Koch saw it differently when he warned against leaving city centers. “The kindergarten brings the city center to life,” he explained. One viewer contested this.
The public has criticized the fact that there has been no playground for children in the city center for eight years. It was abandoned during the highway construction, but could now be rebuilt in its old place. Koch noted that there is also a lot of space for a new playground in the vicinity of the planned kindergarten. The condition of the pool was also criticized. Koch pointed out that a lot of things had been renovated there recently.
Both candidates agree that the Kirchheim Volunteer Fire Department, with its particularly large workload, needs adequate premises, equipment and professional support. Koch announced that a position as a full-time equipment manager would be announced soon. But he also made it clear: “State funding for the fire department is a joke.”