Oxford Council ponders bench destination

By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY

For 21st Century Media

OXFORD - At its June 9 meeting, Oxford Borough Council gave the go-ahead to apply for a $550,000 community development block grant for improvements to Wheeler Boulevard, including new sidewalks and curbs as well as repaving between Lincoln Street and North Third Street.

Wheeler Boulevard resident Peggy Russell told council that she would love to see the street paved, but she also is worried about speeding. “We just want to protect our children on the street,” she said.

The plan does include cross walks in the design, and other traffic calming measures might be included as well, but getting the grant is the first hurdle to be met.

Grant money has been the method Oxford has used for many of its revitalization projects in the downtown, and that will continue as a new phase of improvements to Market Street is set to begin soon.

The most controversial issue on council involved two of the benches that were installed as part of the earlier Third Street improvement project. They were removed last year when plans for facade improvements near them were planned.

Around the same time, there were complaints about people loitering and using profanity on the benches outside the Oxford Area Sewer Authority office and at the top of Market Street near the intersection with Third Street. Now that the facade work is in progress, the business owners would rather not see the benches return.

Last month there was a suggestion that those two benches be donated to the Oxford Cemetery instead of going back to their original spots. Borough Manager Betsy Brantner contacted the Cemetery and found that they would be willing to accept the benches, but council is not all convinced that they should be given away.

Council Member Randy Grace does not think the problems are the benches’ fault. “I have trouble that we’re placing blame on an inanimate object,” he said.

Council could not come up with a motion to decide what to do with the benches, so the item was tabled for future discussion.

Council did agree to create a new Patriotic Parade Committee to work to coordinate and improve the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. On Memorial Day, the ceremony at the Oxford Cemetery was well attended, but the parade did not have the same level of participation.

In other business, council voted to move forward to do an ordinance changer or resolution increasing the fee for a zoning hearing from $600 to $1,500. “The cost that we charge the applicant is not covering everything,” Brantner said.

Council will also be advertising their new Historic District ordinance and the creation of a Historic Architecture Review Board that would be created to enforce the ordinance.

Earlier this year, council member Paul Matthews suggested adding playground equipment for to the Oxford Memorial Park designed to be accessible to special needs children. “No child should be left behind watching other kids play,” Matthews said.

Matthews announced that the Oxford Rotary Club and other contributors are stepping up to help with design and installation of the accessible playground equipment. To get the project moving, Borough Council voted to give their approval for the plan for the park to move forward.