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Patterson gives update on city

Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, Mayor Pat Patterson admitted to the Oxford Kiwanis Club earlier this week that Oxford’s growth over the last few years can often be bittersweet.

“The problems of victory are better than problems of defeat but they are problems nonetheless,” he said. “When I work on our problems associated with our growth, I sometimes get frustrated. Then I take a step back and realize how much the Lord has blessed this community.”

Patterson spoke to the community-service club during their regular lunch meeting Tuesday at the Oxford University Club, giving a “state-of-the-union” update on Oxford.

Construction projects

Growth and keeping up with that growth were the main topics, including an update on current road projects, and the construction of West Oxford Loop Extended and Sisk Avenue Extended.

“Last year we partnered with the University of Mississippi and Lafayette County on West Oxford Loop,” he said. “That will run all the way to College Hill Road and later down the road, we may connect it to Highway 7.”

He said the two roads should be under construction in the next few months and completed in about 18 to 24 months.

“The money is there and the environmental work has been done,” he said.

Vision 2037

Patterson encouraged the group to get involved with the Vision 2037 plan, the city’s updated Comprehensive Plan, that has been in the works for the last year. Several public meetings are expected to be held over the summer to present the final plan for approval to the Vision 2037 Advisory Committee, the Oxford Planning Commission and ultimately, the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

“This will affect everyone in this room and in this city,” he said. “If you don’t get involved and give input, don’t call me complaining  because I’ll ask which meeting did you go to.”

Education and development

Patterson briefly talked about the city’s plan to annex more land in the county over the next couple of years and the city’s need for a new elementary school to keep up with the growing population of children.

Having a good school system with up-to-date schools is important to the community he said, not just for the families living here, but for economic development. He referenced Caterpillar’s recent announcement that it would be closing shop in Oxford within the next year and the importance of having a high-quality school system when marketing the area to future industries and businesses.

“Our economic development people are working hard to get someone here to take its place,” he said. “The first thing some of these businesses look at is our school district. They want good schools here their workers and their families.”

Other current and future projects Patterson touched on included the upgrading the city’s sewer capacity, a new indoor tennis facility the city is partnering with the university to build, a new activity center and possible municipal center that would contain the Oxford Police Department and Municipal Court.

Patterson commended FNC Park for becoming the area’s second biggest tourism draw, just behind Ole Miss Rebel Football.

“That park is an economic juggernaut,” he said. “Drive out there on the weekend. There are hundreds of people there for tournaments and game. It’s just an amazing thing for this area.”

Someone asked Patterson is there is a limit to how much growth the city can handle.

“How do we tell a couple from New Orleans who want to move here, and make this town their home that they can’t live here,” he asked in return. “The growth of this place is something we’re just going to have to accept and deal with. At the city, we’re trying to get ahead of it, and plan accordingly.”