Oxford Public Library expansion plans move forward
By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford Public Library, the third-oldest library in the state, is one step closer to breaking ground on an expansion project after Oxford Borough Council acted on a recommendation by the planning commission and approved the plan with several conditions at the July 21 council meeting.
Council member Gary Tozzo explained that the planning commission reviewed the library plans over several meetings in June and July, and the recommendation was for council to approve the plan with three standard conditions that involve submitting the plans to the Chester County Conservation District, providing financial documentation, and signing an improvement agreement.
Once the borough receives the okay from its solicitor, the plans can be signed and the library can move forward with securing a building permit.
Jamie Cole, a member of the Oxford Public Library Board, said that if all continues to go well with the approval process, the goal is to be able to break ground on the project within the next few months.
“It’s a benefit overall to the community,” Cole said of the project.
The library, which was originally opened in 1784, has long needed additional space for more computers, work space, and programs and activities. In 2013, the library offered 396 children's programs with 9,326 people taking part, and 173 more adult programs with 1,751 people participating.
Library officials re-launched the capital campaign for the project earlier this year and retained Newark, Del.-based Nowland Associates to do the design and construction work on the project. Library board vice president Karen Hovis said in March that the plans have been revised and they expect to make about $1.2 million in improvements for the initial phase of the project.
Library officials want to complete the expansion project in two phases, with phase one including the construction of a new, multi-use wing to the building that will increase the library’s size by about 4,000 square feet. There will be a new entrance that will link the existing building to the new construction. Phase one also includes relocating the children’s library from the lower level to the upper level so that it will better connect with the new wing. The parking area will also be expanded. Phase two will focus on renovating the existing building. The lower level of the building will eventually be utilized as a space for community functions.
In other business at the July 21 meeting:
Oxford Borough Council held a hearing regarding updates to the revised Historic District Ordinance with some minor modifications to the regulations for historic properties in the borough. Council unanimously approved the ordinance.
Mayor Geoff Henry reported that reinforcements are on the way for the Oxford Borough Police Department, with three new part-time officers set to be sworn in later this week. The department has been working shorthanded to make up for the absence of a full-time officer. The new part-time officers will help ease overtime expenses until the full-time officer returns.
During public comment, residents Dudley Cummings and Buzz Dorety commented about the millage rate in Oxford Borough. Cummings noted that the millage rate, at 12 mills, is higher than the rates of surrounding municipalities.
“My concern is the future—moving forward,” said Cummings, explaining that he is worried that taxes will continue to rise.
Council president Ron Hershey acknowledged that he is not happy about the millage rate being at 12 mills, but he noted that even though the millage rates might be higher in the borough, the assessments on homes and businesses in surrounding townships are higher, so the overall taxes that residents pay in those municipalities might be as high as residents in the borough.
Resident Peggy Ann Russell said that the borough’s police department and public works department are important for quality-of-life in the borough and are worth the cost to maintain them.
Council member Gary Tozzo invited all residents with comments or suggestions about the budget to a special meeting to discuss the spending plan for 2015. The borough has tentatively scheduled this budget discussion for 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8, which an hour earlier than the regularly scheduled meeting.
A resident also brought up concerns about speeding vehicles on Mount Vernon Street.
“We hear it all times of the night,” said the resident, noting that the problem has gotten worse during the eight years that her family has lived there.
Mayor Geoff Henry suggested that the borough might consider the possibility of putting in speed humps to control speeding. The borough’s Local Traffic Advisory Committee will be looking into the issue.