By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough manager Betsy Brantner said that the borough has now advertised its intention to seek an anchor building grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. This will be a rotating grant for an estimated $467,000 that will be used for the renovation of the Octoraro Hotel & Tavern. This program allows the borough to apply for the grant and then loan the money out to the owners of the anchor building that is being renovated. As the money is paid back, the borough can use that money for other economic development projects in town.
Brantner said that State Rep. John Lawrence has been encouraging borough officials to get all the paperwork filed of so that the grant process can be expedited.
Council member Jamie Cole said that the grant would allow the borough to take a major step forward in its efforts to revitalize the business district by improving an important building in the downtown.
The Octoraro Hotel & Tavern, which is now open for lunch, is just one of the businesses in town that is either brand new or under new ownership. Sue Cole, the executive director of Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. (OMI), presented council with a list of new commercial activity, including the following: Downtown Pasta plans a January 2014 opening at 306 Market St.; El Nayarit Mexican Grocery Store (4 S. Third St.) and Brittany Buitron Photography (37 S. Third St.) are both holding a grand opening on the First Friday event in November; the Shoppes of Oxford is expected to open at 3 S. Third St. on Nov. 1; Bride by J opened on Sept. 6; and Panaderia La Estrella has a second location planned for 9 S. Third St. Additionally, Millstone Jewelers is opening at 3 S. Third St. in November following the retirement of Ediene Ringler, who lent her name to the jewelery store at that location for the last 25 years. Oxford Odds & Ends will likely reopen in December following a fire that displaced more than a dozen vendors in the spring. Oxford Cards & Gifts is transitioning into a store that features framing sales and serves. And El Mundialito will be opening again after relocating to a larger location on S. Third St.
Sue Cole also talked to borough council about the need for a formal cooperation agreement between the borough and OMI regarding a matching grant from the DCED that OMI has received. Borough council approved the cooperation agreement.
Cole said that the approximately $258,000 grant will be used for streetlights and façade improvements in the business district as part of an ongoing revitalization effort.
Borough manager Betsy Brantner said that the partnership between the borough and OMI has benefited the community because the collaboration helps earn grant money from state and county government.
“That is what the state and county want—they want you to be working together so that they can leverage more out of the dollars they are awarding,” said Brantner. She noted that the grant was initially applied for several years ago, but the pool of grant money dried up.
Council member Sherry Andrews, who serves on the Finance Committee, said that the borough might have to raise taxes slightly next year to offset some unexpected costs.
Andrews had been optimistic that the borough would be able to balance the budget without a tax increase. But property owners continue to seek reassessments and any time a property is reassessed at a lower rate there is a revenue decline for the borough. Additionally, the Oxford Fire Company has sought some additional funding from the borough.
Andrews said that the millage rate might have to be increased from 11.5 mills to 11.6 mills to offset these unexpected expenditures.
“It’s not what I wanted to do,” Andrews said of the prospect of raising taxes. She added that borough officials are waiting for the specific insurance quotes for 2014 to make a final decision on whether the tax increase should be voted on by borough council.