OXFORD – Oxford City Council met on Tuesday, June 22, to discuss topics including the city’s tax budget, business loans, a grant application for the police force, construction projects, and taxicabs.
During the meeting, new Executive Director of McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, Brett Kirkpatrick, introduced himself to the community and shared his hopes for the hospital. Senior Vice-President Steve Mombach was also present. This presentation was the first following the affiliation with TriHealth, a unified health system.
Kirkpatrick said, “The collaboration between the two organizations is really important. It really strengthens our community hospital and provides resources that otherwise we might not have had.”
He spoke highly of the collaboration and also spoke highly of customer ratings for the hospital.
Mayor Rousmaniere commended the hospital for its community activities, such as yoga in the Uptown Park which takes place every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. during the summer months. She also thanked the hospital for doing its duty to raise drug and mental illness awareness.
The city’s tax budget was discussed several times during the meeting. There was a public hearing on the 2017 tax budget. It was explained the need for the public hearing was to give the public a chance to weigh-in on the budget. There were no public comments from Oxford residents.
Nominations for new members of boards and commissions were made and approved.
Three resolutions were discussed and approved during the meeting. The first was a resolution regarding a modification to Moon Cooperative Services, Inc.’s existing loan with the city. This resolution would expand the loan by a year with payments of $1,000 a month, which is an increase in payments of $250. Steve Dana reminded the public of the mission of Moon, which is to connect the consumer with natural products. Moon houses local products, giving farmers a place besides the Farmers Market to sell their goods.
The next resolution supported Oxford City Police submitting an application for a grant which would provide them with $125,000 over three years to put a school resource officer into the local schools and back-fill that position with an entry level one. Chief John Jones added, over the last five years the force’s number of officers has gone down and this grant would allow them to have 17 full-time officers.
The final resolution was in support of an agreement with Cole & Russell Architects, for design and rehabilitation of the former Lane Library on South College Avenue. and the Municipal Building on E. High St. The renovations to the two buildings will address the space needs of the Administration and Police Divisions. This project is not to exceed $378,400.
There were two first-readings of ordinances, including:
• An ordinance repealing an existing taxicab ordinance and adopting a new one. The current ordinance was adopted in 1961 and since then, the volume of cabs has grown, thus making it necessary for updates. The main change to the ordinance is the types of insurances required. According to Economic Development Director Alan Kyger, the current insurance standards are too low.
The ordinance was not discussed without complaint. James Buis Sr. and James Buis Jr. both spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, concerned about how this ordinance would affect their jobs as taxi operators. Buis Jr. was concerned about the ordinance keeping convicted felons from working as taxi drivers. The reasoning is to keep passengers safe, but Buis Jr. pointed out that it’s already very difficult for convicted felons to find jobs.
“I think it would be ridiculous for you guys to put this ordinance in,” he said. “Just for the simple fact that society wants people to change when they get out of prison or jail and by putting this ordinance in, you’re not giving people a chance to change.”
His father also had an issue with the ordinance, but an issue of a different kind. He believes the insurance coverage Kyger was requesting was too high and would force companies to increase the rates of service. Buis Sr. wanted insurance limits to be $100,000.
Mayor Rousmaniere requested, “Let’s look into the felony issue and the insurance issue by our second meeting.”
• An emergency ordinance addressing three tax budget issues. The first is to make an adjustment for health care reimbursements. The second is to make an adjustment for police cruiser purchase. The third is to make an adjustment for donations and expenditures for stage lighting in Uptown Park.
There were three second-readings of ordinances, including:
• An ordinance accepting the planning commission’s recommendation for final plan approval on the renovations to apartment complex, Hawks Landing. These renovations will enlarge dwelling spaces for students, but will also downsize the number of living spaces in the complex. No additional information was provided. The ordinance was approved.
• An ordinance accepting the planning commission’s recommendation for final plan approval of the development of the out-parcels at Bishop Square. The only worry with this ordinance is the potential for increase in traffic on Locust Street. At a previous meeting, council reduced the speed limit in the area to 25 mph from 35 mph, but the street still does not feel safe for pedestrians, some noted.
Mayor Rousamaniere had a suggestion on a way to fix this issue: “I asked Chief Jones to do an analysis of traffic incidents on Locust and they exist,” she started. “I’m going to propose something that a former mayor did, which is mayoral walkabouts — where council staff and citizens met together and walked an area of the community and saw what some of issues were.” She suggested a walkabout be scheduled tentatively for the beginning of July.
• An ordinance authorizing the 2017 tax budget.
In other business, several council members wanted to discuss the recent Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure layover in Oxford. Kyger and Rousmaniere specifically spoke about how good GOBA was for uptown businesses. Along with commemorating GOBA, they sang the praises of Jessica Greene, for helping bring GOBA to Oxford. Freedom Fest, Oxford’s 4th of July three-day festival, was also mentioned, and the public was encouraged to attend.
The council meeting scheduled for July 5 at 7:30 p.m. has been canceled due to its proximity to the 4th of July holiday.