City council approves proposals to finance facilities for social services with Rescue Plan funds

By Skyler Black

Oxford City Council approved two proposals to use American Rescue Plan funds toward construction of social service facilities in the city.  

The proposals will now be sent to the Butler County Commissioners for authorization. 

Council ranked as its highest priority a request for $1.5 million to finance the construction of the One Stop Social Services Center, which will be built by Talawanda Oxford Pantry & Social Services (TOPSS) and shared by the Family Resource Center (FRC).

The facility will serve as a permanent home for TOPSS, which plans to expand services with a commercial kitchen and educational space for food programs. The new building would also host an emergency cold shelter in the basement, where mobile home community members could take shelter during storms and tornadoes.

TOPSS volunteer Caroline Reges said that the dire need for food assistance for Oxford residents and Miami students requires an expanded facility.

“There really is a need in the community for these kinds of resources,” said Reges. “There are people who have been born and raised here, lived here their whole lives, and now they can’t afford to live in their home town anymore. It’s really helpful with the new building that hopefully will make living here a bit possible for more people and make it easier for them to just live their lives.”

The city’s second-ranked resolution called for $3 million to fund a new Multi-Generational Community Facility for the Oxford Seniors. According to this plan, half of the money is for the construction of a new wing to the TRI Community Center on Fairfield Road to house Oxford Seniors; the other half is for renovations to the center.

The proposal offers secondary benefits that will advance other city projects; In May 2022, the city council passed a resolution that would allow the Talawanda School District to use the Oxford Seniors building on Tollgate Drive if the seniors move to the new multigenerational facility.  

The school district would use the Tollgate Drive building for staff who now work in the district’s Nelson Morrow Building on Chestnut Street. Demolition of the Nelson Morrow Building would be a first step toward construction of the planned Amtrak platform in that location. 

“This is a city council-directed priority ranking,” said Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene. “The mayor asked for the resolution of the One Stop Social Services Center to be ranked as priority one, and then he asked for the resolution for the multigenerational community center to be ranked as level two. He recommended the dollar amounts and then he presented it to the rest of the city council for vote.”

The city council did not advance a third resolution to use $1.5 million for city infrastructure and establish a social services facility fund. The fund would have aided social service agencies in their projects and could have been leveraged as grant matches for state or federal funding sources.

A resolution regarding ARPA funds and housing were also discussed and approved for submission to the Butler County Commissioners. Affordable housing has long been an issue in Oxford, and the city council hopes to utilize ARPA funds to address the problem.

One resolution called for a contract with Neighborhood Housing Services, who will serve as a resource for housing plans. They will provide information to the city about counseling, financing, grants, property development and property management. The partnership will be renewable for a fee no more than $25,000 a year until Dec. 31, 2024.

Now approved by City Council, the resolutions have been sent to county administration to await review.

“We’ll see what the county commissioners decide to fund,” said Greene.