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Chester County Press

Oxford Borough Council holds first in-person public meeting at new Borough Hall

07/05/2021 08:39PM ● By Steven Hoffman

Oxford residents had their first opportunity to see the new Borough Hall and council room on June 21. Oxford Borough Council held the first in-person council meeting that was open to the public at the new Borough Hall. It was actually a hybrid meeting since residents could also watch through Zoom. Due to the pandemic, council was not able to hold a meeting at the new location until now.  The July Borough Council meeting, scheduled for July 19, is also a hybrid meeting. Residents are encouraged to check to confirm meeting dates for the summer as some meeting dates have changed. 

Council President Peggy Russell welcomed residents to the meeting and to their first look at the new Borough Hall, which was included as part of the project to build a new parking garage in downtown Oxford.

Council also approved a motion to update the COVID-19 policy to conform to new regulations that have been recommended by the CDC and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The latest guidance does not require masking for those who have been fully vaccinated. The Borough’s policy is being adjusted to be consistent with that. 

Effective immediately, staff who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while in a borough building. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after a second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Borough employees, regardless of their vaccination status, who wish to continue utilizing masks are encouraged to do so. 

Police chief Sam Iacono informed council that police officers are now returning to live training for use-of-force policy training as well as instructions on how to use a bean bag gun. According to Iacono, the beanbag gun is a less-lethal use of force. It will do damage, but it will not kill. Part of the training is teaching the officer where it is appropriate to hit the body.

One officer recently returned from active shooter training. Other trainings coming up involve use-of-force instruction. Iacono emphasized, “You have to have live training for live situations. Those situations can include car stops, domestic disputes, or a man with a knife scenario.”

Officers had their first staff meeting since the pandemic began. Iacono said that they should be getting back on track and having more training and more meetings in the near future.

The police chief and Mayor Phil Harris also reported about the District Attorney Task Force meeting. District Attorney Deb Ryan scheduled the meetings based on school districts. The Oxford task force included three Oxford police officers, a Lincoln University police officer, a school police officer, and a state police officer. It included seven residents who either volunteered, or were picked through ministry groups or local churches. 

Iacono feels all outreach events such as this program or any other help the community and police officers. He expects his department to be getting busier again since people are out and about now. He did note that domestic calls were high, but obviously there were fewer incidents like bar fights during the pandemic. 

In other business, council approved a motion to allow Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. to restrict parking in the Broad Street North parking lot, located behind the attorney’s office. Going forward, it is expected that the lot will be used by Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. for First Fridays during the remainder of the year. 

Council approved a motion to form a Police Pension Committee which would include the council president and/or their approved council member designee, the chair of the Finance Committee and/or their approved Council member designee, the mayor, a rank-and-file Police Department representative, the borough treasurer, and borough manager.

Borough Manager Carey Vargo said, “the defined benefit pension plan committee has a cross section so there are multiple eyes to make sure the plan performance is consistent with market performance. Typically, they review fees, funding ratios and best management practice.”

Council member Dick Winchester said, “We have agreed we should do a review and secondly we are reminded by what is going on at state level to perform a periodic and systematic review.”

Vargo said, “The plan is performing well, but we do need more eyes.”

During the discussion, borough solicitor Stacey Fuller also noted that the borough may need to amend the ordinance.

“We will look at this further,” she said.

 Council approved allowing the interim borough manager to obtain estimates  for sidewalks, curbs (including rain garden bump-outs) paving, and water main replacement lines on Mt. Vernon Street as part of the Multimodal Transportation Fund and Small Water and Sewer grants. Liquid Fuel Funding might be used to match grants.

During the public comment period a borough resident expressed the need for more handicapped parking. This issue will be looked at in the future.

The next borough council meeting is scheduled for July 19 in the new Borough Hall. Residents will also be able to watch the meeting via Zoom.