County Commissioners present Oxford with grant for Wheeler Blvd. upgrades
● By Steven Hoffman
Two months ago, Oxford Borough officials learned that the borough was going to receive a $575,000 Community Revitalization Program grant from the county to make much-needed streetscape improvements to Wheeler Boulevard between North Third Street and Lincoln Street.
The Chester County Commissioners—Terence Farrell, Kathi Cozone, and Michelle Kichline—were all on hand at a Sept. 9 event on Wheeler Boulevard to formally present the grant award to Oxford Borough. A number of families who reside on the street came out to thank the County Commissioners, including a half a dozen children who made signs showing their gratitude. The impromptu block party also included ice cream and a performance on the bagpipes by the mother-and-son team of Sharon and Kyle Grasty.
Borough officials and residents talked about how Wheeler Boulevard is in need of repairs.
Borough manager Betsy Brantner explained that Wheeler Boulevard has seen an increase in traffic because of the expansion of the nearby Tastykake plant and build-out of the Oxford Square Mall and Oxford Commons.
Toni Isaacs, who has lived on Wheeler Boulevard for the last 14 years, said that she is concerned about the amount of traffic on Wheeler Boulevard, as well as the speeds that the cars pass through.
Dianna Stuckey, a lifelong resident of Wheeler Boulevard, said that the street has remained essentially unchanged through the years. While she was glad to see the upgrades to the road coming, she does have concerns that the improvements will allow motorists to increase their speeds on the residential street. Several residents said that they'd like to see speed bumps on other traffic-calming measures added.
Council member Randy Teel said that the condition of Wheeler Boulevard has been a topic of discussion in Oxford since he joined council in 2000.
Council member John Thompson added that Wheeler Boulevard was always at the top of the list of streets in need of repair in Oxford.
According to borough officials, the project will include replacing waterlines, valves, hydrants, and a stormwater system which will improve water pressure that is vital to fire protection in the area. The streetscape improvements will also include street paving, sidewalks, and ramps on Wheeler Boulevard.
The Chester County Commissioners announced this year's Community Revitalization Program grant awards, totaling $2,995,000 for projects in the City of Coatesville and six boroughs, in July.
“Community Revitalization grants have benefited a number of Chester County urban centers over the years,” said Farrell, the chair of the Chester County Commissioners. “These funds greatly improve the overall health of communities and provide for growth, as well as spur significant increases in taxable assessments.”
According to Brantner, Oxford has received about $4.5 million in funding from the county since 2002 for a variety of infrastructure upgrades and streetscape projects, including the $1.3 million award that transformed the look of Third Street.
Farrell said that Oxford has always used the funding effectively. He added that the opportunity to present the grand awards to borough officials was “always one of the most rewarding things that we get to do.”
Kichline said that the county uses the Community Revitalization Program Grants as a way to invest in the communities to make the urban centers more vibrant.
Cozzone added that revitalizing boroughs is one way to work toward the goal of maintaining the overall character of the county, which is a part of the county's strategic plan.
Cozzone said, “It's always nice to be able to visit the areas that the county has invested in and talk to the neighbors that are being affected by these projects.”
There was plenty of enthusiasm on Wheeler Boulevard for the upcoming work.
“I am thrilled because we have a lot of young children on our street,” explained resident Peggy Ann Russell. “We need to keep them safe. This will help support those efforts.”
Brantner said that the funding that Oxford has received from the county has been invaluable to the borough's continuing revitalization efforts.
Since the Community Revitalization Program began in 2002, the county has awarded more than $57 million in Community Revitalization Program and Community Development Block Grant program grants to the sixteen urban centers in the county for infrastructure improvements, according to Pat Bokovitz, Director of the Chester County Department of Community Development.
Brantner said that requests for bids on the Wheeler Boulevard job will be put out before the end of the year, with the work on the project taking place in 2016.