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COVID cases trending down; City Council spends $300,000 on community services

Jennifer Bailer, health commissioner for the Butler County Health District, said Oxford is now averaging 25 new COVID cases a day, a decrease from several hundred a day at the end of August. 

“Not zero yet, but heading in the right direction for sure,” Bailer said. 

During City Council’s Sept 15. meeting, Bailer reported there have been no hospitalizations or known complications for any of the students who tested positive. 

Bailer said the bars, restaurants and the farmers market are concerning areas to her. 

“I really want to see that the people who work in those settings have testing available to them,” Bailer said. “Right now in Oxford, that’s not really prevalent.”

In response to Councilors' questions about whether cases will continue to decrease, Bailer said she couldn’t be certain, but with students returning, the start of flu season and Oxford heading into winter months, it didn’t look good. 

“If I sound like doom and gloom, I apologize,” Bailer said. “But it’s not a rosy picture right now.”

Councilor Jason Bracken suggested students be tested before they leave campus to prevent COVID from spreading to their families and communities at home. 

Bailer said she will not be making any recommendations to the city about Halloween and trick-or-treating because Governor Mike DeWine has said he will make an announcement. 

“It’s something that people really like, kids really like,” Bailer said. “We don’t want to be the ruiners, but it is a somewhat high risk activity.”

Later, Council passed $307,117 in CARES Act funding to be donated to different organizations in response to COVID. 

Following a work session to plan out how the city will spend the second and third rounds of the CARES funding, council passed seven resolutions allocating funding for the first round. 

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The funding came from the CARES Act, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a stimulus package passed by the federal government in March. 

Talawanda Oxford Pantry & Social Services (TOPSS) received $42,000; the Family Resource Center received $142,000; Talawanda School District received $16,000; Oxford Community Arts Center received $14,017; Butler Behavioral Health Services received $20,000; Oxford Seniors received $46,500 and $26,600 went toward public health upgrades. 

TOPSS will be able to purchase a mobile food pantry. Brad Hoblizell, executive director of the Family Resource Center, said the organization will be using the funds to help with emergency financial assistance, cold shelters, transportation, and eviction history and credit repair. 

“Many members of our community have evictions on their records, and that prevents them from getting housing in our community,” Hoblitzell said. “So we want to work with clients to repair their eviction history.”

Councilor Edna Southard said the funding for the Family Resource Center is really for everyone. 

“We’re always talking about who’s the most vulnerable,” Southard said. “But none of us know which of us are going to be the most vulnerable. This disease could make anyone, any neighbor of ours, among those that need help.”

Council also passed a resolution to purchase four pay station multi-space Smart Meters. The meters cost just more than $29,000 in total. Oxford Police Department (OPD) Lieutenant Lara Fening presented the resolution to council. 

“This is encouraging the public to use more technology, which they demand,” Fening said. “It’s a benefit to both the public and the city.”

According to OPD Lieutenant Geoff Robinson, the meters will allow community members to pay the parking meter on their phones. Parking attendants can then use the License Plate Recognition (LPR) vehicle to see who has or has not paid. 

During the meeting, Mayor Mike Smith also proclaimed Sept. 15, through Oct. 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month. 

The next City Council meeting will be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6.