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Oxford Police Department braces for growth

To help create a “nest egg” so the Oxford Police Department can build up its force as the city continues to grow, the Oxford Board of Aldermen recently approved tucking away $200,000 for OPD.

The money will come out of the city’s 2 percent tax fund that taxes food, beverages and hotel/ motel rates. Aldermen voted on and unanimously approved the change in a recessed meeting last week.

Police Chief Joey East asked the board to approve five more officers for the department in his 2015-2016 fiscal year budget. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30, 2016. The request was given a preliminary nod as the budget itself has not been officially voted on or approved by the aldermen.

However, East said he needs to request the extra manpower because of Oxford’s growth and may need to in coming years also. To help pay for that increase, aldermen approved moving $200,000 into an escrow account for the 2016-2017 fiscal year to be used solely for additional personnel.

The 2 percent fund is expected to total about $2.5 million by the end of September.

Those funds help pay for several community programs like the Double Decker Arts Festival, the Heritage Foundation, Historic Properties Commission, projects at FNC Park, the Yoknapawtpha Arts Council and trees and flowers for the Square.

The 2 percent funds are designated to be spent on projects and commissions who foster tourism.

“How do we justify spending this money on the police department?” asked Alderwoman Janice Antonow. “I’m not against it, I just want to make sure we’re doing it correctly.”

Mayor Pat Patterson said the need for more police is due heavily to the activity on the Square, particularly during football season when 50,000 or more fans pile into Oxford.

“We need to have enough officers on the Square and enough to cover the rest of the city during those times as well,” East said.