After a packed and long meeting in September, Oxford City Council gathered for its first meeting of the month on Oct. 4 at the Oxford Courthouse. This meeting also had a large audience, with more than 25 people, and ended up running for more than two hours.
Council passes one of two resolutions related to environmental issues
Councilor David Prytherch introduced a resolution, in conjunction with the Parking and Transportation Advisory Board, to amend the proposed 2023 Capital Improvements Budget to give $100,000 to update the city’s transportation plans, rather than waiting until 2024.
“If we want to complete our streets and our Oxford area trail, we have to have a plan, and we have to have cost estimates,” Prytherch said. “I know it’s planned for 2024, but I think it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.”
Possible topics the updated transportation plan would cover included updating pedestrian-bike infrastructure, addressing carbon emissions and making transportation more accessible. Prytherch also said updating the plan was a top concern among residents.
City Manager Doug Elliott agreed that improving the city’s transportation is an important concern but wanted to wait until 2024.
“Staff and I agree we need to update the transportation plan,” Elliott said, “but we feel that it should be done in 2024. We’ve got a lot of projects on the table.”
Elliott said other programs, such as adding a new public restroom, would have to be cut from the budget, and the city manager’s office would need to hire additional staff to have the resources to update the transportation plan in 2023. With the additional staff member, the update would end up costing $150,000.
Councilor Jason Bracken brought up the fact that updating the plan could possibly get grants faster.
Councilors Bracken and Prytherch were the only ones to vote yes on the resolution.
Prytherch then shared another resolution that would also amend the 2023 budget, this time for allocating $50,000 to the funding of consulting services that would study the feasibility of renewable energy sources in Oxford. The budget originally had $25,000 for looking into the use of solar energy.
The city currently has a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030 from 2019.
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The resolution was adopted unanimously.
Public participation ends in argument
Carissa Schnell, Oxford resident, took the stand during public participation to talk about the resolution of dissent against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade that passed at the previous meeting.
“It was good to hear both sides of a very sensitive topic,” Schnell said, “but I wish we could have had that conversation before you guys started or enacted a resolution and voted on it.”
During her five minutes, Schnell also said she wished Oxford would host more “Living Room Conversations” for residents to discuss similar topics.
“We need to find ways to bring this community together rather than pull something that is a national and a state topic and bring that divisiveness right here to a local level,” Schnell said. “I get the impression that it’s more about what’s happening in your own political bubble rather than what’s happening across the spectrum.”
After Schnell’s five minutes were over, Mayor William Snavely asked her to leave the stand. However, Schnell refused.
“Well, thanks Mr. Snavely, but here’s the thing,” Schnell said. “I know that you’re not just smiles and sweater vests.”
“That was uncalled for,” Snavely replied. “Here’s the thing. We treat everybody the same, and we did listen to you, and we listen to everybody, and we give everybody five minutes.”
Schnell continued to talk for another minute before leaving the stand.
Two resolutions passed for OVI task force
Council unanimously agreed to accept a resolution allowing the City of Oxford to act as the lead agency for the Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) task force for Butler County. The resolution also allowed the city manager to enter a $250,000 grant agreement with the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
The grant will be divided among 13 Butler County agencies to operate saturation patrols, where multiple officers monitor a certain area for signs of impaired driving, and OVI checkpoints to protect highway safety.
The council also unanimously approved a contract for Peter Reising to work as the OVI Task Force Coordinator for the 2023 federal fiscal year. Reising has served as the coordinator since 2015, although his retirement in 2016 switched him to a contract employee. The resolution allows him to be paid $60 per hour.
“Such an awesome relationship that we can continue to maintain with Pete,” Prytherch said.
Oxford City Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 18, in the Oxford Courthouse.