Fire in Hamm on 14 September 2018
Question by François Benoy
An enormous fire broke out on Friday, 14 September 2018 in an industrial warehouse on Rue Haute in Hamm, around 100 metres from residential buildings and in the vicinity of the airport. Fortunately, only one person was injured, and their injuries were minor. The business in question handles the collection, transport and treatment of recyclable, special, toxic, industrial and household waste.
Consequently, I would like to put the following questions to the college of aldermen:
- What caused the fire?
- Which substances were burned in the fire?
- What was the environmental impact? What substances were emitted? What clean-up measures were taken?
- Do the business activities of the company in question comply with the regulations in force for this location (PAG zone ECO-t, etc.)?
- What conclusions do you draw from the fire and what consequences do you foresee?
Question by Héloïse Bock
On 14 September 2018, a fire that was described as "gigantic", particularly by the media, was reported at the facilities of a recycling company located between Rue Hamm and Rue Bitbourg. A medium-sized fire had previously ravaged the same location on 18 May 2018.
The Grand Ducal Fire and Rescue Corps (Corps grand-ducal d'incendie et de secours – CGDIS) and Automobile Club of Luxembourg (ACL) used social media to tell people to avoid the area and warn local residents to keep their doors and windows closed. The fire, which was close to a residential and business district, was so large that some 90 firefighters from several fire corps, including Findel, were called in.
In light of the foregoing and in accordance with article 9 of the municipal council's internal rules and regulations, I would like to ask the following questions:
- Was the source of these fires investigated, and if so, what were the conclusions of the investigations?
- Did this company hold all the required permits to store and treat the materials in question, which apparently also included chemical products?
- The firefighters allegedly faced a major problem in extinguishing the fire, due to inadequate water flow to their hoses. If this is true, what measures need to be taken to prevent such a situation in the future?
- If the warehouse is rebuilt on the same site, what additional prevention and safety requirements should be instituted for this company?
- In view of applying due precaution in the face of potential risks, does it make sense to permit this company, which treats chemical products, to return to the same site given the known risks and the proximity of residential buildings and schools?
- Other towns use targeted alert notification systems (e.g. via SMS), which are helpful and effective in similar situations. Does Luxembourg City plan to implement such a system in future to alert residents about major incidents like this one, in view of the fact that some people likely to be affected by an incident do not use social media?
Response by LYDIE POLFER
The mayor stated that following the complaint that was lodged, a police investigation is under way and the college of aldermen has already shared the information at its disposal. As the college of aldermen is no longer involved in this case, it will be unable to provide additional information until the investigation is concluded.
Bedbug infestation at the Cinémathèque
Question by Tom Krieps
Our municipal cinema has once again been closed due to a suspected bedbug infestation and the information relayed by the media has been far from clear, but it would appear that the cinema has been closed as a preventive measure. I would therefore like to ask the following questions:
- Has any real evidence of the presence of bedbugs at the Cinémathèque been found?
- If so, the treatment carried out during the Cinémathèque's closure earlier this year would appear not to have been effective: should more drastic measures, such as replacing the seats and carpet, be considered?
Response by LYDIE POLFER
The treatment used to exterminate the bedbugs in the municipal cinema in early 2018 was not effective enough: on 29 November 2018, the municipal authorities received a complaint from a filmgoer saying that he had probably been bitten by a bedbug at the Cinémathèque. In response, the Service Architecte (Architecture Department) went to the site and used trained dogs to check for bedbugs. After a bedbug infestation was confirmed, a specialised Swiss company was hired to take care of the problem. However, the Swiss company was not available to begin its cold treatment of the bedbug-infested area until late January 2019. The treatment will be completed on Friday, 1 February 2019, and municipal workers will go back to the site on Monday, 4 February 2019 with the sniffer dogs to make sure the bedbugs are gone. If testing for bedbugs is still positive, another inspection will be carried out 15 days later.
In any event, a period of 15 days must be allowed to reinstall the equipment that is disassembled for thorough cleaning. Therefore, the municipal cinema may reopen within 15 days at the earliest; otherwise, it will reopen within a month at the latest.
If this treatment is not effective, it goes without saying that the municipal authorities will take more drastic measures such as replacing the carpet and seats.
Question by Christa Brömmel
The City of Luxembourg has announced that it intends to open the Bierger-Center on 9 February between 9:00 and 14:00 to enable European nationals who live in Luxembourg City to register to vote in the upcoming European elections in May 2019. We applaud this effort by the municipal administration.
However, while Luxembourg City regularly boasts about its international populace and European calling, compared to the rest of the country, it has one of the lowest proportions of foreigners registered to vote – specifically, 20% (see Cefis study in the 25 January 2018 issue of the Luxemburger Wort). Therefore, I would like to put the following questions to the college of aldermen:
- In order to allow EU nationals to register to vote, might it be possible to open the Bierger-Center every Saturday in February, and have it stay open late one day during the week?
- In addition to the special Saturday opening of the Bierger-Center on 9 February, the City of Luxembourg is sponsoring Groupe Andino's conference at Tramsschapp. In light of the fact that this organisation has limited reach because it is not widely known, has the City of Luxembourg planned other concrete, large-scale initiatives to inform and encourage the residents in question to register to vote in Luxembourg?
- Has the Service Communication (Communication Department) decided it would be a good idea not only to send a personalised letter to the target group, but also to compose a letter that is more than just an administrative standard letter, as was sent for past municipal elections?
- The integration committee has recently suggested that a brochure explaining the European elections should be published in two bilingual versions: French-German and English-Portuguese. Will this brochure be created and circulated in time to have the desired impact?
Response by ISABEL WISELER-LIMA and LYDIE POLFER
Alderwoman Wiseler stressed that the municipal authorities had made significant efforts to encourage residents to vote in the European elections through its municipal advisory committee on integration. With this goal in mind, Luxembourg City decided to open the Bierger-Center on Saturday, 9 February 2019 for voter registration, while also publicising the fact that people could register to vote electronically, 24/7, through the MyGuichet.lu portal, as well as by post.
In addition, the City of Luxembourg encourages all associations that would like its support, whether by renting out rooms or through other means of assistance, to promote participation in the European elections. It is also taking other concrete steps to encourage residents to register to vote: 56,000 letters translated into four different languages and written in conjunction with the municipal advisory committee on integration have been sent to residents. This letter is more than just a simple administrative letter.
The municipal advisory committee on integration is highly committed and very active on this issue. It meets every month and is currently working on setting up an information booth every Saturday in February 2019, to provide an explanatory brochure to the public. Voting is also encouraged in the Luxembourgish language classes organised by Luxembourg City, and through the distribution of informational leaflets in public places. As part of these efforts, announcements have been published in the latest issue of City magazine and on Facebook. In addition, a publicity campaign encouraging people to vote has been put in place on the city's buses.
However, it should be noted that while Luxembourg City actively encourages people to vote, it does not necessarily encourage citizens to register on Luxembourg's voter rolls; they must remain free to choose if they want to vote for deputies from Luxembourg or other member states.
Regarding the brochure, the municipal advisory committee on integration decided to discontinue this project because it felt that the brochure put out by the Luxembourg Reception and Integration Agency (Office Luxembourgeois de l’Accueil et de l’Intégration) was exhaustive enough, so publishing an additional brochure would create more confusion than clarity. However, the municipal advisory committee on integration will publish a brochure that explains its own role and activities.
The mayor was also careful to note that the final deadline to register to vote is 17:00 on 28 February 2019, and praised the work of the municipal departments, which are currently overloaded and working hard to meet the deadlines.
The vel'OH! service
Question by Christa Brömmel
In late November 2018, the City of Luxembourg launched a city-wide electric bike sharing scheme as part of the vel'OH! system. This service – launched somewhat behind schedule – was eagerly awaited and welcomed by Luxembourg City's residents. The operator, JCDecaux, had notified former subscribers and new potential subscribers that there would be a two-week transition phase, during which stations would become operational one at a time. In theory, the vel'OH! service was supposed to be up and running by early December 2018.
As the service is a first in Luxembourg City, it goes without saying that the usability and customer service of the "all-electric" bike scheme has been put to the test. A number of experiences shared on social networks and reported by the media described problems encountered even after the transition phase. These issues related to customer service when creating a customer account, and to technical and IT issues (bikes that were unavailable because they were not charged, failings in the electric system, problems with the smartphone app, etc.).
With due consideration of the fact that we need to make allowances for a system that is only just getting started, I would like to put the following questions to the college of aldermen:
- Does the City have a list of the technical problems that occurred during this initial phase?
- To what extent were low temperatures and frequent rain responsible for the operational problems of the electric bikes? If these weather conditions were indeed responsible for operational problems, how does the operator plan to deal with them in the future?
- By what date can JCDecaux guarantee that the vel'OH! service will be running smoothly?
- To what extent are the maintenance and repair services based in Luxembourg capable of meeting requirements?
- Has the expansion of the vel'OH! network to all the city's various districts and neighbouring municipalities been delayed by these problems?
- Do the municipal authorities plan to install other vel'OH! stations – specifically, in Dommeldange (train station), Eich, Pfaffenthal (near the youth hostel) and Neudorf?
- Are there plans to study whether there is a need to increase capacity in certain busy locations, such as at the Geesekneppchen, CHL, stadium, etc.?
- As the number of users and trips has increased since November 2018, does the City of Luxembourg have information on any accidents that involved a vel'OH!?
Response by PATRICK GOLDSCHMIDT and LYDIE POLFER
Alderman Goldschmidt stated that a great deal of information had already been shared during the general meeting of 25 January 2019 by the non-profit organisation Lëtzebuerger Vëlos-Initiativ, and that the problems related to the new vel'OH! system had not initially been included on the agenda of this municipal council meeting because the municipal departments had not yet been able to answer all the questions and JCDecaux had not yet taken a stance. However, in an effort to give a timely response, the matter was nevertheless placed on the agenda.
The new electric bike system was not launched until 30 November 2018 due to a delay on JCDecaux's side relating to problems with battery supply. The service provider gave assurances that the system would be operational by that date. Nevertheless, Luxembourg City has found that two months on, users are still experiencing copious issues with the system.
It should be noted that JCDecaux is responsible for building the stations, installing the technology for the electric bikes, ensuring that bikes are supplied for each station, and guaranteeing that the bikes operate as fully electric bikes, and that JCDecaux – not Luxembourg City – must maintain the bikes and move them from one station to another; these services were offered by the service provider in the tender submission which won the government contract.
The City has observed that there are currently issues with the communication system between the different components of the station network and the electric bikes; clearly, this falls within the purview of JCDecaux, rather than Luxembourg City. The City has also been made aware that the electric propulsion system is sometimes defective, requiring users to pedal the bikes without assistance.
In response to this, user complaints have been collected by the municipal departments and forwarded to JCDecaux with an order to quickly find a solution. Luxembourg City intends to guarantee a high-performance service, for which it provides 90% of the funding and which, although not free, is entirely affordable with its one-year membership fee of €18. Regarding the list of problems, JCDecaux was urgently called upon to find solutions. Therefore, it is impossible to respond as to the impact of weather conditions on the operation of the electric bikes in Luxembourg until after the meeting with the service provider.
That being said, the City does not intend to add any new stations until the service is operating smoothly. Finally, the mayor added that she hoped the system would be functional for spring 2019.
Twice-weekly markets at Place de Paris
Question by Tom Krieps
Due to construction work for the tram, the merchants have had to move their stalls to Rue Ste Zithe, across from the hospital, and Saint Jean de la Croix house. Unfortunately, no measures have been taken at Place de Paris to inform the public that the merchants are now located a few hundred metres away.
We have noticed that passing customers, of which there are many for this market, have deserted the "market", or what remains of it. Now, there is only one fruit and vegetables merchant left.
Because the situation is worrying, I would like to ask you an urgent question about the survival of the twice-weekly market held at Place de Paris on Wednesdays and Saturdays:
Does the City intend to take the necessary steps to preserve this market, which is small yet practical for the residents of the Gare district and passersby?
Response by PATRICK GOLDSCHMIDT
Alderman Goldschmidt explained that Luxtram did not inform the municipal administration until late November 2018 that it would need to occupy Place de Paris for the purposes of the tram line's construction. This meant that an alternative needed to be found quickly for the twice-weekly market, and it was moved to Rue Ste Zithe. However, when the merchants refused to set up their stalls there, the City temporarily incorporated their stands into the market held on the Knuedler on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Nevertheless, the City continues to seek a location for these merchants in the Gare district so that local residents can continue to enjoy their twice-weekly market, and it is also thinking ahead by looking for alternatives for the Kermesse, which takes place in the summer in the Gare district, as well as for the Christmas market.
However, it must be noted that this is proving difficult, because it is not known how the construction site will evolve in the coming months.