Residents talk about quality-of-life issues during Oxford's Borough Day
12/05/2014 12:02PM ● Published by Steven Hoffman
By Steven Hoffman
It has become a custom for Oxford Borough officials to hold an open house on the first Monday in December. Borough Day is an opportunity for residents to meet with elected officials and borough employees, including police officers, in a more relaxed setting to discuss any issues that might be on their minds. The borough staff even supplies food and refreshments throughout the day.
This year's Borough Day took place from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. Borough Manager Betsy Brantner spent most of that time greeting visitors to borough hall and discussing anything that residents wanted to talk about.
“This is a good opportunity to have people come in and ask any questions that they have,” said Brantner. “People are asking about quality-of-life issues—how to get along with your neighbor, dealing with parking issues. A longtime resident just came in and he wanted to talk about the parking on his street. For a long time, it was one house, one car, but now it's one house, three or four cars.”
When Brantner started Borough Day four years ago, the idea was that it would be an opportunity for residents to get an in-depth look at the annual budget and to talk to borough officials directly about the items impacting the spending plan. But the budget is just one issue among many that residents have wanted to discuss.
This year, Brantner said, residents wanted to talk about environmental concerns and water issues. A few people shared concerns about the well-publicized drought conditions that have gripped parts of California. Brantner was able to explain that Oxford has wells and its own source of water.
Brantner said that she shared a PowerPoint presentation with some residents that outlined what borough employees do during the workweek.
“The employees that work for the borough really care about the residents. They take pride in their jobs,” she said. “We get a lot of compliments about the Public Works Department. Our employees do an excellent job of removing the snow and the cleaning up the leaves. We have a lot of people who say that they benefit from those services.”
Borough Day is a good day for new residents to learn about how government works, or to get explanations about bills or fees. The water bill can be particularly complicated, so a borough official can review a homeowner's bill line by line to explain it.
There is always an open-door policy at borough hall, so residents can stop by anytime for this kind of help, but the Borough Day's extended hours and relaxed atmosphere make it a good fit for many residents.
“It's good to have people come in like this,” Brantner said. “We want more people to come in and share their ideas. We want more people to come to our borough council meetings. If people are concerned about a quality-of-life issue, they can always come to council meetings. Our council members do listen. One person can make a difference.”
As an illustration, she noted that it was initially just one person who suggested that the Oxford Memorial Park could benefit from having a special needs playground. Council member Paul Matthews has championed this initiative.
“There are a lot of things you can do to improve the community around you,” Brantner said.
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.