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Oxford holds first in-person council meeting in 15 months

Plastic barriers separated Oxford’s city councilors at their June 2 meeting, the first in person City Council meeting in 15 months. Last March, the city switched to remote meetings to follow social distancing guidelines and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

During the meeting, Council voted to adopt an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) transition plan, pursue a grant for Oxford Area Trail System (OATS) expansion and seek additional COVID-19 relief funding.

The ADA requires cities and municipalities to develop action plans to evaluate city property and work toward greater accessibility. The resolution is Oxford’s first official ADA plan, though the city has has taken steps in the past years to become a more accessible city for disabled residents and visitors, including a 2019 Complete Streets Policy which aims to make roads safer for all users regardless of their mode of transportation or ability.

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said the resolution was long overdue.

“This is a plan that we, quite honestly, should have had for a long time,” Greene said. “The city of Oxford has been working on ADA compliance and improvements for many, many years, and we’ve spent millions on it, but we’ve never adopted a plan.”

The city partnered with Miami University political science majors to assess Oxford’s facilities for areas of improvement and draft the resolution. The plan also outlines steps to continue self-evaluating Oxford’s facilities and public communications every few years to match ADA standards.

“This is forever work,” Greene said. “We’ll be continuing to do self-evaluations and then continuing to make steps for improvement.”

Council also passed a resolution allowing the city manager to pursue a grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) to partially fund Phase Five of the OATS. This phase would connect Peffer Park to Talawanda Middle School, one of the largest planned expansions to the trails yet.

“This is what I call ‘The Big Kahuna’ because it involves a railroad crossing and [steep hills] that will be ADA compliant,” Greene said. “This will connect the east and west side of town, [and it] is a very expensive segment.”

Oxford is requesting $2.725 million from OKI. The city will then match 40% of the funding with $1.8 million from an existing property tax levy designed to fund the OATS.

“The OATS Trail is one of the best things going in Oxford,” Vice-Mayor Bill Snavely said. “It’s something that helps everybody in town who’s willing or interested in walking, riding a bike or doing anything, and I think it helps the overall community. It draws people to our community as a result.”

Also during the meeting, Council passed a resolution allowing the city manager to pursue an additional grant of $200,000 in COVID-19 relief funding from Butler County. The funding is intended for long-term recovery solutions to respond to the pandemic.

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Greene said the grant will function as a continuation of Oxford’s small business grant program, though a majority of funding will go directly to non-owner employees of local businesses.

Oxford’s next City Council meeting will be held in person at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15 in the Oxford Courthouse.