No tax increase in Oxford Borough
By Steven Hoffman
There will be no tax increase for the residents of Oxford Borough as borough council unanimously approved a general fund budget in the amount of $3.8 million at the Dec. 16 meeting. The Tax Levy Ordinance was also approved and the millage rate will remain at 12 mills for the second consecutive year.
The meeting started after an executive session was held for council members to discuss the letters of interest that were received for the position of mayor. That position was vacated when Lorraine Durnan Bell submitted her resignation, citing medical reasons, and borough council accepted the resignation at a meeting on Dec. 2.
Appointing a new mayor was a major item on the lengthy agenda for the last council meeting of the year. The borough received four letters of interest from borough residents Susan Miller, Phil Harris, Paul Andriole and Amanda Transue-Woolston. All the candidates were present at the meeting to answer questions from council and the public.
Each candidate was given an opportunity to answer two questions from Council: the first question pertained to why the person wanted to serve as mayor, and the second question was about what the person would hope to achieve as mayor.
Miller said that her life experiences and desire to address the needs of the people made her a good candidate. She added that serving as mayor would be a good way to be involved in the community.
Andriole previously served Oxford Borough as a council member and mayor, and said that he could hit the ground running due to his experience. His concern was both the police budget and the safety of the community.
Harris, who owns a construction business and has worked in the area for 20 years, said that he lost his bid for borough council in the recent election to some fine people. He said he was very involved in the community and wanted to restore integrity, honor and respect to the police.
Amand Transue-Woolston, a social worker and behavior specialist, said that she felt growing up with a mother who was a prosecutor and now with a father-in-law who was a former police chief stirred her interest in the mayor position. She hoped to use her experience with social media to help promote the police and involve the community.
Once borough council and the public had the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates, it was time for borough council to select a new mayor to serve the remaining two years on the unexpired term. In the end, Sue Lombardi, serving as the interim mayor, had to break a tie vote between Harris and Andriole. Lombardi cast the deciding vote and Harris will now serve as the mayor of Oxford Borough. Harris thanked council for their vote of confidence.
During the public comment session, a New Street resident expressed concern over sidewalk and curbing requirements. Council encouraged her to speak with the borough manager for further clarification about the regulations.
Borough resident Randy Teel encouraged council to reduce the borough’s donation to Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. and to increase the donations to the non-profits in the community that receive some support from the borough.
Chauncey Boyd spoke to council regarding the continuing damage by tractor trailers to his property at the corner of Wegewood Road and Locust Streets. Council will work on this in the new year.
In other business, council unanimously approved an ordinance to repeal the per-capita tax which was originally set by ordinance in 1947, and last amended in 1973. Council vice president Peggy Ann Russell noted that the tax, which was levied and assessed at $5 for Oxford Borough residents over the age of 18, no longer covered the expenses saying, “The costs of administering, billing and collecting the per-capita tax are so great that it doesn't make sense to continue to collect the tax.”
Oxford Borough Council also discussed an ordinance pertaining to the borough’s Historic District Map. Discussion from a number of residents regarding restrictions in the historic district prompted council member Robert Ketcham to invite concerned residents to a Codes Committee meeting in the new year to express their concerns and seek solutions.
An ordinance dealing with high tunnel facilities (greenhouses) was also discussed and approved. Ketcham, the Codes Committee chair noted, “We have to allow for this type of facility in the borough.
Ketcham also spoke briefly about a proposed medical Marijuana Ordinance. “We previously sent this for Act 247 review and it was returned. We had initially proposed it for the PCLI (light industrial) district but it is too close to the schools. A change was made dropping the PCLI district. ” Council approved resubmission for another Act 247 review.
A motion was approved by council to advertise the Outdoor Café Ordinance. This will be brought up in the January meeting.
A motion was approved to authorize advertising an ordinance Amend Chapter 21 of the Borough Code to establish an appeals process related to sidewalks and curbs.
A payment in the amount of $493, 894.92 to CPS Construction Group for the Multi- Modal Transportation Center was also approved by Council. Also approved was a final payment of $19,634.30 to BP Patterson for the water main replacement project.
Lombardi, one of three council members whose terms are ending, said an emotional farewell and thanked council members for their help and support. Her term on council ended with her serving as council president. She also served as interim mayor during the last few months.
John Thompson and Randy Grace are also ending their terms on borough council. They were thanked for their service and dedication.
The Borough Council Reorganization meeting is scheduled for January 6, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at the Oxford Senior Center.