City approves contract for water softening system

By Stone Shields

Oxford City Council has approved paying Strand Associates, Inc., a Cincinnati engineering firm, up to $1.8 million to design a water softening system for the city water plant.

Actual construction of the system is expected to cost about $17.9 million, according to a report prepared by city service director Michael Dreisbach.

“While it is rare to get a water quality complaint, many customers have shared that they do not care for the natural mineral hardness of the city’s water supply and would like the central plant to offer softened water,” he wrote. 

Two engineering firms submitted proposals to design the system, with Strand Associates being preferred by Council.

Dreisbach said he estimates the project could take three years to complete fully.

“It’s probably going to be about 12 months to get the design complete,” Dreisbach said. “Construction for this project will probably be between 18 and 24 months, and it will probably be about three years before we see the impact of what we do tonight.”

Dreisbach said the city will apply for an Ohio EPA grant to help cover the design costs. The city was declined the grant last year.

According to the report, while the design contract will not significantly impact the rates paid by utility customers, “the construction contract will have an impact, both with capital costs and ongoing operational expenses.”

Council also approved a 12-month ban on new vape or tobacco establishments within the city. 

According to a report prepared by assistant city manager Jessica Greene, the ban on additional shops is justified because of the products’ negative health effects. The resolution will not impact shops that are already open. 

Vice Mayor Chantel Raghu said that the owner of a vape shop told her that it was “kind of insane” how easy it was to get a permit. He also told her that one reason there are many vape shops here is that taxation is higher elsewhere, like in Indiana. 

Council also approved a new agreement for fire and EMS services with Oxford Township. Under the new, two-year agreement that has been submitted to Oxford Township Trustees, the township will pay Oxford $158,000 for providing these services to unincorporated township areas.

Under the current three-year agreement, the township pays $126,000 per year. The amount was calculated based on the percentage of calls to Oxford Township, officials said.