Oxford rejects bid on former borough hall11/24/2020 01:43PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough Council rejected the only bid—at $220,000—that was received for the former Borough Hall and train station at 401 Market Street.
Borough solicitor Stacey Fuller explained that under state law Council had 60 days to approve or reject the bid. Borough council’s decision came just a few weeks after the bid was received.
Council member Dick Winchester supported accepting the bid from Jeff Hamm, a local business owner. Winchester said, “We have to continue to pay for maintenance and utility bills on this. The bidder is a well-known business person. I feel comfortable with him.”
Council President Peggy Ann Russell reminded Council of the former Borough Manager’s email from July 16, 2020 which read: “Selling the building below market value would be a disservice to the taxpayers in the Borough. The building is essentially owned by the taxpayers and should be sold for whatever the highest bidder or for the highest price that we can get for it. Several reasons for doing this is that the funds received for the building could be put towards a reserved account or added to the pension fund to pay for the costs associated with the early-retirement benefit, then a tax increase can be avoided. It can also be used to build up the capital fund for future projects in the Borough, and if the building is put back on the tax rolls, it will generate property tax revenue for not only the Borough, but also the County and the School District.”
A roll call vote was taken with council members Mary Higgins, Bob Ketcham, Kathryn Cloyd, and Russell voting in favor of rejecting the bid, while council members Amanda Birdwell and Winchester voting no on the bid rejection. Council member Ron Hershey was absent. The motion to reject the bid was approved.
Fuller said, “This is a public process. Mr. Hamm will be notified of this decision following the meeting.”
Cloyd stated, “It appears there wasn’t adequate advertising done for the sale of the building. We feel we can get more bids by re-issuing the Request For Proposal. Local people were not even notified of the sale.”
A new motion was approved to reissue a new Request For Proposal allowing more time for advertising. The proposal will be advertised in the Chester County Press and Daily Local News. The proposal will also be circulated to Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, and other investor groups or businesses in the local area. It will also be posted on the Oxford Borough website. The new bids will be opened on Jan. 7, 2021.
The former borough hall and train station holds historic value as well as two small parking lots adjacent to the building.
Council approved advertising the 2021 budget notice. The budget will be available to the public for review. The public can review the budget and ask questions which will be addressed at the Dec. 7 meeting. The budget will be available on the website and will be available for pick up outside of the borough hall by appointment.
Updates from the search committee regarding the Borough Manager job posting and ordinance were discussed. Fuller will continue to review the ordinance. The job posting will be released pending final approval from Higgins, the Search Committee Chair. Applications for the position must be received by Dec. 18.
Oxford Borough recently issued a press release regarding the pandemic, noting that it is not over yet—and, in fact, the coronavirus is on the rise locally.
The release stated: “Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in Chester County and the surrounding areas, effective immediately, all Borough Council and committee meetings will be held virtually with no in-person attendance permitted. Please visit our website to view the calendar of upcoming meetings and obtain instructions on accessing the meetings virtually. Additionally the Oxford Borough offices will be closed to the public until further notice. Our staff will be available to assist you and answer any questions over the phone and can be reached at 610-932-2500.”
Oxford Mainstreet representatives Christy Hannum and Brian Dix informed Council of upcoming plans for the BID district. Hannum’s priority continues to be fundraising and development of the Shoebox Theatre. Hannum is hoping for an opening in April of 2021. Hannum has raised $28,000 for the project. They are installing two handicapped bathrooms at the cost of $12,000 apiece and will continue to raise funds.
Council expressed full support of the project. Individual council members displayed their own personal checks which would be donated to “purchase a seat” in the theatre.
Dix is the new OMI Main Street Manager and said, “I am dedicated to rejuvenating the business district and to continue to assist our businesses to have a safe accessible town. Things will be different due to the pandemic, but we plan on continuing the tree lighting with a pre-recorded ceremony on Dec. 4 which will go on Facebook. We will do our best to promote the holiday spirit. I just finished my first month at OMI and I’m excited to join Mainstreet. We will have Small Business Saturday after Thanksgiving. With the help of Public Works our decorations will be installed. We will make sure that the public knows our downtown is here.”
Hannum said 10 businesses joined together to run radio ads during the holidays on the country station WXCY in Maryland.
Council announced that the Oxford Borough Planning Commission has an opening. Interested Oxford residents can send a Letter of Interest to the Borough at P.O. Box 380, Oxford, PA. 19363 or email to [email protected]
During the public comment period, John Reynolds, the borough’s representative to the Oxford Area Recreation Authority, discussed the plans to approve a motion to withdraw from the Joint Municipal Agreement with East Nottingham Township on Police Services for the park on Locust Street. Upon advice from Fuller, council will do further research on this.
Police Chief Sam Iacono told council that the final draft of the body camera policy should be completed by the end of the month.
“All of our equipment is here and ready to go,” Iacono said. “However, the representative coming here to get us up and running on the equipment is traveling from Texas. With the pandemic, his travel is being curtailed around the holidays. We will move forward after the holidays.”
The police chief informed council that the flag box which was located at the former Borough Hall was moved to the front of the police station by Boy Scouts Troop 13.
An Oxford police officer was involved in a vehicle accident when another driver ran a stop sign. The officer has returned to work and the other driver has been cited for a stop sign violation. Major damage was done to the police vehicle, which will be reviewed by the insurance carrier.
Four applicants will be coming before the Civil Service Commission in the continuing hiring process. Background checks of those applicants have been completed.
In other police business, a motion to authorize civil service commission to begin process for promotions in the police department was approved. Actual promotions will take place in March.
Mayor Phil Harris reported that he is continuing to work with the Oxford Area School District as he monitors the rising numbers of COVID cases. The Chief and Mayor contributed to the community and church care packages for outgoing Lincoln University students.
Harris and the police chief continue to participate in the outreach program “Crucial Conversations.”
The mayor is continuing to work with the Oxford Arts Alliance on the unity mural. Harris is also trying to coordinate a meeting with the new development person for La Comunidad Hispana.
In other business, the 2020 Borough Day is being cancelled due to the pandemic.
Council approved the hiring of consultant Roseann McGrath for the process of hiring a Borough Manager. She has been approved for approximately 50 hours at $125 per hour.
A Motion to Approve the North Second Street Utility Improvements Agreements with B.P. Patterson in the amount of $188,434 was approved. The project will replace the water main on North Second Street from Mt. Vernon to Lancaster Pike. Four water main services will be replaced.
An extension to Sycamore Crossing Phases 6 and 7 Final Subdivision Plan was approved to run through and include the date of January 19, 2021.
Council approved a motion to appoint Birdwell as the council’s representative on the OMI Board, pending the resignation of Brian Hoover.
A motion was approved for the yearly contract between DigiTEK Computer Service with active access inclusive and the police department in the amount of $6,500.
HARB Recommendations were approved by council for 64 Pine Street and 200 N. Third Street.
An agreement for a sign easement on 221 Locust Street was also approved.
Russell ended the meeting on a positive note by saying, “In spite of the pandemic, we still need to remember we have a lot to be thankful for.”