City council awards contract for water-softening plant


Photo by Kaylee Olmsted

Russell VieBrooks, secretary of the Masonic Lounge, accepted the proclamation of June 17 as ‘Oxford Masonic Day’ from Mayor William Snavely. The Masons group is celebrating its 200 anniversary.

By Kaylee Olmsted

City council denied a request to waive parking meter fees in the festival area of Uptown for a June 17 car show to raise money for a new playground at Kramer Elementary School. 

Third-grade teacher Stephanie Pearson, who organized the fundraiser with the Oxford Masonic Lodge, appeared before City Council  June 6 to ask for the parking meter fees to be waived. Pearson said  the Oxford Masonic Lodge has to pay $3,710 to cover the parking meters in the festival area, which could be better used to support the children attending Kramer Elementary. 

City Council members thanked Pearson for attending the meeting but denied the request. Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene said other event sponsors, such as for the Porsche car show later this summer, also have to pay for road closures and parking meters, despite making charitable donations.

Three resolutions were passed during the city council meeting. 

Council awarded a $92,000 contract to WestTech Inc., headquartered in Utah, to begin the construction of a pilot water-softening plant. According to council documents, the city must build a system to test the water softening method it would like to use before building a new plant at an estimated cost of $2.4 million.

“When I first got on council back in 1987, we were talking about water, water treatment, and the hardness of the water back then,” Mayor William Snavely said. “It’s been a continuing issue for as long as I can recall, and I share your excitement that we’re at this point.” 

Council also voted to request proposals from consultants to rewrite the city’s planning and zoning ordinances, a project that is expected to cost $50,000 and “take significant community development and economic development staff time through the end of 2024,” according to city documents. The project would be paid through American Rescue Plan Act funds.   

 Greene said the goal is to repeal the existing planning and zoning regulations and replace them with regulations that incentivize affordable housing, economic development, and sustainable development. The consultant will also include a feasibility analysis of building code updates intended to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045, according to city documents. 

Approval was also given for the city manager to apply for a $20,000  grant from the Ohio Ambulance Transportation Program. Fire chief John Detherage said the money, which is also ARPA funds, would be dispersed to employees who worked during the pandemic.

At the meeting, the council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would make a property adjoining the city, near Millett Hall, part of the city and eligible for city water and sewer service. Developers have identified a parcel of land for a new 92-room Fairfield by Marriott hotel at 525 N. Campus Avenue. The annexation was requested by the current owner of the property, The Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches. 

Council members said they were concerned that the developers won’t comply with Oxford code after annexation is approved to make the land part of the city. 

“We’ve been burned and fooled once, but I’m not sure I’m not sure I’m willing to be fooled a second time,” Snavely said. “There’s a big level of trust that frankly, there’s no reason for us to have.” 

Snavely said he wanted to see a middle ground of either “simultaneous annexation” or an agreement that the developers will adhere to Oxford code. He advised developers to bring a plan that follows and demonstrates an understanding of Oxford code to the next city council meeting in two weeks. 

The mayor also presented local couples with a proclamation recognizing June 12 as “Loving Day” to celebrate interracial marriage and the anniversary of the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. 

“It’s a great honor to be asked to receive this proclamation on behalf of interracial couple marriages,” said Bill Miller.