Planning for the future: Oxford Public Works Department works to keep up with growth

Published 8:00 am Monday, December 18, 2017


This is part of an ongoing series on our area’s infrastructure as Oxford and Lafayette County continues to grow.


The city of Oxford often provides water and/or sewer services to developments just outside city limits. However, with developable land inside Oxford dwindling and more development going on in Lafayette County, the Oxford Public Works Department is doing all it can to keep up with the growth of Oxford and Lafayette County.

Oxford will generally provide water and sewer services to developments within a mile or so of city limits. With the Oxford Board of Aldermen looking at annexing more land from the county, those boundaries – and the number of developments seeking city services – could increase.

Public Works Director and City Engineer Bart Robinson said the capacity of Oxford’s water and sewer service remains strong; however, he admits it’s a constant struggle.

“We try to stay around 70 capacity on our water system, but that is constantly changing,” he said. “We are around 80 percent capacity today (Thursday), but we have a couple of projects within the next year that will drop that back to around 70 percent.”

Robinson said the city is constantly planning for the future with the hope that the Public Works Department can keep up with current and future needs.

“As our requests for water and sewer get further from the core of our system in Lafayette County, the problems increase,” he said. “The easy answer to the question is, ‘we have the capacity for the developments we are approving.’ But there are areas near Oxford but outside the city limits, that we cannot serve.”

Keeping up with the demand means constantly updating current facilities and building new ones, Robinson said.

“The current and the past Boards of Aldermen have been very supportive of making the improvements we demonstrate to be necessary,” he said. “The addition of water tanks, water lines, water treatment plants, sewer lines, and wastewater treatment plants will always be needs for towns experiencing growth.”

Water and sewer infrastructure is funded strictly from water and sewer rates.

“We have a 20-year plan which details some upgrades and additions along with rate increases needed to fund these improvements,” he said. “I don’t see the issues within the city changing as long as we are allowed and able to keep making improvements and additions to our system.”

Because of the area’s topographical situation and the challenges it presents for sewer service, Robinson said a north wastewater treatment plan will likely be needed to be added in the near future.

“The further developments gets from our primary wastewater treatment plant, the more problematic service becomes,” he said.

Annexation will cause the Public Works Department to change some priorities and add to required improvements.

“Depending on what is annexed, the amount and cost of infrastructure will vary,” he said. “After the last large annexation, it took about five years to make all the required improvements.”

While the city strives to be able to provide service to new development popping up around the city’s borders, Robinson said it’s necessary to keep existing facilities up to date and working at optimum capacity.

“There are areas (inside city limits) that need updates and upgrades,” he said. “We work to make those upgrades yearly.”

Robinson said the PWD currently has $14 million worth of improvements that are either currently under construction or will be within the next 18 months.

“All of these improvements are paid for from revenue collected from our ratepayers or from Revenue Bonds paid for by our ratepayers,” he said. “It is just like eating the elephant. We will do it a piece at a time until all required improvements are completed.”