Oxford Borough Officials Emphasize Adherence to COVID-19 Guidelines
By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough Council president Peggy Ann Russell and mayor Phil Harris hand-delivered a letter to local businesses that emphasized the importance of following the guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health established to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The letter reads, in part:
“The Secretary of the PA Department of Health issued an Order on July 1, 2020 (the “Mask Mandate”) requiring individuals to wear face coverings if they are: outdoors and unable to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from individuals; in any indoor location where members of the public are generally permitted; and under several other scenarios. In addition to the Orders, the Secretary published a FAQ document regarding face coverings, which provided, in part, that, even if an individual is inside a public place AND able to maintain social distancing, s/he is required to wear a mask unless a medical exception applies. For all businesses and employees in the restaurant and retail food service industry authorized to conduct in-person activities, the Governor’s Office published Guidance requiring all customers to wear masks while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant or retail food service business. Face coverings may be removed while seated.
Failure to strictly adhere to the requirements of guidance promulgated in the Guidance for Businesses in the Restaurant Industry may result in disciplinary actions up to and including suspension of licensure, including liquor licenses.”
The complete letter is available on the Oxford Borough website at: oxfordborough.org.
Russell told the public at the Oxford Borough Council meeting that in order to give greater access to the council meetings, council has created a hybrid meeting of sorts by blending the virtual/Zoom meeting with an actual meeting in the new Borough Hall. At this meeting, a small number of individuals in the public can attend in person to allow for social distancing. Those people will have their temperatures taken when they enter as well.
Russell will be the lone council member in the room, while the entire borough council will continue to participate in the virtual meeting from other locations. Due to the Labor Day holiday, there will only be one borough council meeting in September, and it will be held on Sept. 21.
If you’d like to attend a council meeting, contact the borough for further instructions.
At the most recent meeting, council unanimously approved a finalized collective bargaining agreement with police officers. The contract, which is retroactive, runs from Jan. 1, 2019 until Dec. 31, 2022. Stacey Fuller, the borough’s solicitor, said the contract is available to the public through the Right-to-Know Law.
Fuller highlighted some of the changes in the contract. She said, “Starting in 2019, pay increases for a full-time officer will be 3 percent, then 3.75 percent in 2020, and 4 percent in 2021 and 2022. The hourly rate for part-time officers has also changed: In 2019, the rate will be $25.78, in 2020 it will be $26.75, in 2021 it will be $27.82 and in 2022 it will be $28.93. Employees will be paid retroactively from 2019.”
Fuller explained that healthcare provisions were revised and does not bind either party to existing health care coverage. In light of changes in health care coverage this allows the parties to opt out and make changes in their coverage.
Sick leave maximum accumulation was capped in the previous contract and in the new contract sick leave may be carried from one year to the next with no cap on accrual.
In other business, State Sen. Andy Dinniman and state Rep. John Lawrence sent a letter to council announcing that the Borough of Oxford will receive $416,000 in state grant funding to upgrade its water service system.
The funds come through the Pennsylvania Small Water and Sewer Grant Program. They will support important improvements to the borough’s residential and school campus water service system.
“Water is life and we cannot take our water system for granted. It’s crucial that we make improvements and upgrades to ensure that our water infrastructure is safe, efficient, and healthy now and into the future,” Dinniman said in a statement. “I was proud to work with the Borough of Oxford and State Rep. Lawrence to secure this vital funding, which will go a long way in ensuring continued access to clean water for residents, students, teachers, and families throughout the area.”
Lawrence added, “Sometimes it's easy to forget about underground water pipes until one breaks and causes a flood. Oxford’s forward-thinking approach to address key water infrastructure before there is a problem should be commended. Senator Dinniman and I worked hand-in-hand to advocate for this grant funding, which will pay to replace water mains around the school district’s elementary and middle school campus.”
Regarding the grant funding, Russell said: “The residents and taxpayers of the borough are grateful for the work of Senator Dinniman and Representative Lawrence, and all those who worked behind the scenes to make this moment possible. We are excited to be able to improve the quality of water to our public school campus and surrounding residences, replacing pipes that are at least 70 years old. In addition, this improves the water flow from hydrants for fire protection in that area.”
Harris has begun moving into his new office in the parking garage. Harris will have a conversation with the superintendent of the Oxford Area School District regarding food shortages for families in the area due to possible school schedule changes. He will also be discussing how the school schedule will impact the school crossing guards.
Visitors to the Oxford Memorial Park will soon see marked improvements in the asphalt pathways. Council approved R. S. Asphalt Paving’s bid for $9,375 to improve the paths, including adding a piece from the walkway to nearby Ware Village to accommodate wheelchairs.
Council member Richard Winchester thanked borough manager Brian Hoover for his efforts in making this project happen so quickly.
Council member Kathryn Cloyd and the Environmental Committee have been working on environmental issues within the borough. Council approved a motion to approve installation of a sign at the headwaters of Little Elk Creek to promote the rain garden buy-in from residents.
The Environmental Committee also worked on an agreement with Keystone – 10 Million Trees. Council approved a motion to enter into this agreement that will allow the borough to receive free trees. The borough would be responsible for posting to their website where trees are planted and for performing future tracking of the trees. There is no financial obligation for the borough.Cloyd said, “ We plan to plant trees at the headwaters of the Little Elk Creek, at the Public Works compound at the Tweed Creek and other areas where possible within the borough.
Council also approved the Historical Architecture Review Board (HARB) recommendations for the following properties within the Borough:
- 39 S. Third Street
- 151 N. Third Street
- 255 Mt. Vernon Street
- 126 S. Third Street
- 73 Pine Street
- 632 Market Street