Will Oxford Borough Council vote to build parking garage?
● By Steven Hoffman
So far, Oxford Borough Council hasn’t had to take a major vote on the proposed parking garage and transportation center.
Any spending up to this point has been limited to retaining consultants to help secure funding for the project. The borough has also taken some preliminary steps to pave the way for the parking garage to be built, such as adopting an ordinance that would allow for a structure of that height in the commercial district.
At some point, sooner rather than later, council will have to start authorizing significant expenditures to move the project forward. What happens when council is faced with a decision?
At the town hall meeting last week, borough council president Ron Hershey spoke favorably of the benefits of the project, but council mostly listened to residents and allowed others to lead the presentation.
At the April 17 council meeting, council members shared their current views on the project after they were prompted to do so by borough resident Dick Winchester.
Based on the council members’ statements, it would seem as if the project has the necessary support—as long as the borough secures the necessary funding from county and state grants.
Council vice president John Thompson said that the borough has been talking about the need for parking for a very long time, and as long as the funding is there he supports going forward with the project.
Gary Tozzo said that the parking issues have been a topic of discussion for the 18 years that his family has lived in the borough.
“I’m sitting on this council because I was concerned about where our taxes were heading,” Tozzo explained. “I am fully in support of this parking garage.”
Tozzo’s term on council is ending this year and he is not seeking reelection. The same is true of council member Paul Matthews. Matthews also said that he is supportive of the parking garage as long as it doesn’t result in a tax increase.
Peggy Ann Russell said that she’s worried about the potential impact that the Oxford Area Sewer Authority’s financial situation could have on borough residents. While she sees benefits to the parking garage, Russell said that she’s not sure that the borough is ready to build one right now.
“If I had to vote today, I would have to vote ‘no,’” she said.
Council member Sue Lombardi, by contrast, said that if the vote were taken now she would support it.
Lombardi said that borough council has been very careful with spending and she does not want to raise taxes, but the numbers suggest that the borough can pay for the project without burdening taxpayers. Lombardi added that while she hasn’t completely made up her mind yet, she is more confident than ever that the numbers suggest that this would be a worthwhile project for Oxford.
Randy Grace said that the parking garage represents an opportunity to help improve the commercial district and finally have a solution to Oxford’s parking issues.
Grace said that he supports the parking garage project, but added that, “it is not a silver bullet. It will not supply all the answers for downtown Oxford.”