Parking revenues up in Oxford Borough
● By Steven Hoffman
In her first official report as mayor of Oxford Borough, Lorraine Bell informed borough council that the revenues generated from parking meter collections and parking tickets far out-paced what had been budgeted for the year of 2017.
At the council meeting on Jan. 15, Bell reported that revenues from parking sources totaled $98,900 by the end of 2017, a significant increase over the previous year.
The borough increased its parking rates for the first time in many years last summer. According to borough officials, when the costs of parking was 25 cents per hour, the revenues generated weren't even sufficient to cover the borough's ongoing costs of maintaining the parking spaces, leaving residents to offset those costs through the municipal taxes that they pay. Increasing the parking rates was a way to ensure that the costs of providing the parking spaces was being paid by the people actually using the parking spaces.
The revenues for 2017 increased even though there are still 132 un-metered spaces in the downtown where people can park for free. A plan is in place to add kiosks for three different parking lots to allow people to pay for the parking in these spaces once the parking meters are added to those lots. This should increase the parking revenues. The borough is in the process of securing funding to construct a parking garage in the business district that will offer more parking to Oxford residents and visitors to town.
Bell also reported to council that she has had a busy first few weeks on the job, meeting with various stakeholders in the community, including members of the police department.
In other business at the meeting, council member Robert Ketcham suggested the possibility of holding a public forum regarding the parking garage project.
Ketcham, a newly elected council member, explained that he has heard from people in the community and the public forum might be beneficial to inform residents about some of the details pertaining to the project.
Several council members pointed out that a public forum specifically about the parking garage was held last year, and the project has also been discussed numerous times at public meetings for the last several years.
Council member Ron Hershey suggested holding a public forum closer to the date when the construction work would start because it would be beneficial to inform residents about parking options once the construction work starts. Council president Sue Lombardi suggested having the Special Projects and Parking Committee discuss the idea of a public forum and determine when the best time would be to hold such a meeting.
Randy Teel, a resident of Oxford, said that he thinks the public forum should be held early enough so that suggestions from residents could still be incorporated into the plans.
The Jan. 15 meeting took place on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, and Ketcham raised a question about whether the borough might want to discuss moving the council meeting to another night in the future.
“The nature of this holiday raises a lot of issues,” Ketcham said. “I don't object to us meeting, but I think the holiday slides by without any attention...”
During the discussion that followed, it was pointed out that the borough is actually open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because it is not a holiday that is included in the current contract with borough employees.
Borough manager Brian Hoover explained that since the borough is open that day, council has also historically held its meeting as scheduled. Borough employees have ten holidays off throughout the year, but Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not one of them.
“We meet on several other national holidays,” Hoover also noted.
In another discussion item, new council member Amanda Birdwell inquired about whether it would be appropriate for borough council to archive the recordings of its meetings. Currently, the meetings are recorded, but once the minutes of the meetings are approved, the old recordings are discarded. Birdwell said that a resident had raised this issue.
The borough's solicitor, Stacey Fuller, an attorney with Gawthrop Greenwood, PC., explained that the minutes of the meetings are the official records of what transpired. She said that she encourages the municipalities that she works with to follow the recommendation of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB) which is to not archive recordings of meetings. It can be time-consuming and costly to keep all the recordings.
The borough has retained the services of O'Donnell Appraisal Associates for appraisal work that is necessary for the borough to acquire easements for properties that are near the proposed site of the parking garage.
Hoover explained that the borough is in negotiations with the owners of all three properties to gain the easements. In order to move forward on that, the property must be appraised and the value of the property as a result of the easement must be determined.
Geoff Henry offered a letter of interest to serve on the Civil Service Commission. Council unanimously approved his appointment. He is filling a vacancy that was created when Ketcham joined Oxford Borough Council.
Council member John Thompson, who serves on the borough's Police and Public Safety Committee, said that it was time for the borough to update the Civil Service exam list. The list is used any time the borough is hiring a full-time police officer. It takes time to update the list, so even though the borough might not have a need to immediately hire a police officer, it is necessary to keep the list of qualified candidates updated.