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Newer sewer lines, water tank head up Public Works projects

By Reid Posey

news@gmail.com

Sewers, water tanks, garbage trucks and money to advertise Oxford were all requests presented to the Oxford Board of Aldermen Monday during another round of budget hearings between the board and department heads.

City Engineer and Public Works Director Bart Robinson led off his department’s proposal by singling out the largest increasing categories on his budget, which consisted of Treatment and Purification, Source of Supply, and Sanitary Sewer Lines — all of which fall under the Water and Sewer Fund.

The proposed increase in Treatment and Purification will primarily go toward covering the cost of the design and rehab of the “old lagoon,” with the final goal of reconfiguring the old lagoon as a flow equalization basin. Other projects under this category include the enlargement of the clarifier tank at the Timberlake subdivision as well as the construction of walkways to facilitate the cleaning of the clarifiers.

The majority of the requested increase to Source of Supply, a difference of over $1 million, is to begin work on an elevated water tank behind Kroger.

The increase in Sanitary Sewer Lines primarily centers on the engineering, design, and partial installation of a sewer trunk line from Oxford to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Robinson’s budget also showed funds planned for a sewer upgrade for areas north of FNC Park, as well as $250,000 set aside for “other various improvements to be done throughout the year.”

Elsewhere in the Public Works budget, there was also a fairly significant increase in the Capital Outlay section under Highway and Street Maintenance for various capital projects, including box culvert construction on Majestic Oaks Drive, an American Disabilities Association Accessibility project, and the pipelining of Goose Creek. Remaining funds after these carryover projects will be used for various intersection improvements around Oxford, such as Azalea Drive and South Lamar Boulevard, Jefferson Avenue and North Lamar Boulevard, and McElroy Drive and College Hill Road.

Tourism

Also presenting their proposal for the upcoming year was the Tourism Department, represented by Director Mary Allyn Hedges and Assistant Director Kinney Ferris.

The most notable changes made to the Tourism budget were increases in the areas of public relations and advertising.

Hedges stressed the importance of expanding their commitment to public relations as Tourism continues to do their best to reach out and attract writers to Oxford, which will hopefully lead to more features written about Oxford, an extremely valuable form of advertising in and of itself.

As for advertising, both Hedges and Ferris acknowledged the cost of staying relevant in an increasingly digital landscape and continuing to expand their online footprint through digital advertisement. However, Ferris also noted that these increases to advertising are working directly to attract more interested visitors to Oxford, which will fuel higher 2 percent food and beverage tax revenues, which will then flow right back to the city.

Ferris also explained that there would be a change in the community grants program structure for the upcoming year, a change that she said would help to increase efficiency across the board and to place different organizations on a level playing ground when they come to Tourism for help putting on their events or festivals.

“This way, we still get the analytics of who’s coming, how they’re getting here, and where they’re staying,” Ferris said. “It just allows more people to use the money more efficiently, and it’s more efficient on our staff time.”

Hedges also noted that, from a revenue standpoint, they were expecting a major increase in hotel and motel tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year with the openings of the Courtyard Marriott and the Graduate Hotel, in addition to the upcoming Chancellor’s House Hotel.

Environmental Services

After Tourism, Amberlyn Liles presented the Board with the proposed budget for Environmental Services.

Liles listed for the Board her department’s equipment needs, ranked in order of importance.

Her first request, a street sweeper valued at around $225,000, has already received a commitment out of the 2 percent tax fund.

Her next choices included a recycling truck and a roll-off truck, which would enable her department to pick up at apartment complexes that have their own compactors. Liles explained that the cost of the roll-off truck included both the truck and some roll-off dumpsters for the city. She pointed out that the city spent approximately $30,000 last year on the rentals of roll-off dumpsters from other companies for busy weekends, such as football games and the Double Decker Festival.

Liles also said that the roll-off trucks would help to increase revenue, as her department continues to work toward automated garbage trucks in the future.

Recycling

Liles then gave way to Recycling Coordinator Michelle Robinson, whose only significant requests were a new truck for her foreman and another Bobcat track hoe to replace their current model.

The only other group to present at Monday’s meeting was the Municipal Shop, led by Superintendent Bo Ragon.

Ragon had no significant requests in his budget. However, he did remind the Board that the Municipal Shop was quickly outgrowing its current headquarters and that they would have to find a new location relatively soon, which the Board assured him they would address when the time came.

The Board is set to meet again next Tuesday, July 26 for its final budget hearing before the aldermen review the entire budget to be approved by Sept. 15.