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Fire Department unionizes, Oxford prepares for storm at City Council meeting

Oxford City Council approved a resolution allowing the city manager to sign a union agreement with the local fire department and planned ahead for a potential weather emergency later this week at its Feb. 1 meeting.

The resolution allows City Manager Doug Elliott to sign a collective bargaining agreement with the Oxford chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The union represents professional firefighters, paramedics and captains employed by the City of Oxford.

“This is the first labor agreement with this recently formed union,” Elliott said as he recommended that Council approve the resolution.

The agreement covers a period of three years, including all of 2021 and stretching until Dec. 31, 2023. To account for the past year, members of the union will see a retroactive raise of 3% on their 2021 earnings. In 2022, they will get 4% raises.

The contract also establishes guidelines for 12-week family leave and a maximum shift of 48 straight hours with 12-hour off-duty periods. Under the agreement, employees will not go on strike for future negotiations.

Later in the meeting, Mike Dreisbach, service department director, briefed Council on the city’s preparations for potential snow later in the week. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for Butler County effective Wednesday morning through Friday morning and estimates two to four inches of snow. The Weather Channel, meanwhile, reports that the city could see up to eight inches of snow.

“The buzz around town is there’s a lot of weather forecasters out there,” Dreisbach said, “There may be a winter storm on the way.”

Dreisbach said the city is in a good position to handle the potential snow storm. Depending on when it hits, however, freezing rain could be more hazardous than snowfall.

Police Chief John Jones urged residents to sign up for Nixle, the Oxford Police Department’s emergency email and text alert system.

In addition to providing updates on inclement weather, the service lets residents know when they need to move their cars away from snow routes.

Even if residents are signed up for emergency alerts, Jones advised everyone to be proactive.

“Don’t wait for that message to get out,” Jones said. “I would suggest even if you aren’t on a snow route, if you’re on-street parking, please move your car.”

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The potential for freezing rain could lead to power outages as well. While Oxford doesn’t have any large-scale warm shelters, Jones said the Talawanda School District buildings run on backup generators and are prepared to host residents if the need arises. If residents lose power and opt for alternative heating methods, Jones said they should be aware of potential carbon monoxide dangers.

While the city is prepared, the weather still isn’t certain.

“Based on the forecasts I’ve read, we could get anywhere from one to 15 inches,” Snavely said. “I’m glad they’ve narrowed it down for us.”