Good News, Bad News at Oxford Council
It was a lively meeting of the Oxford Town Council tonight, starting off with the swearing-in of the town’s new Fire Chief, Bruce Rushton.
Rushton is the first official to take up a post since the passing of Queen Elizabeth, which required a change to the Oath of Allegiance and of Office, which now refers to “His Majesty King Charles the Third”.
That oath of office will be repeated — hopefully — in April, if Oxford manages to find a candidate to fill a vacancy on Town Council.
A planned January 7th by-election had to be scrapped when no candidates stepped forward. Another kick at the can will be held on April 1st — no joke. Nominations open February 24th and close on March 7th.
The election call for early January had planned to include a question to voters on whether the town should switch to curb-side garbage pickup and close the Oxford transfer station. No word yet from the town on how that matter will be resolved, or whether the April election is too late to take action before the deadline to renew the contract with FERO, the company tasked with removing waste from the station.
A hot-button issue on the agenda was the matter of Oxford’s main intersection and the drivers who can’t seem to understand a three-way-stop.
Complaints have been filed by the public and the school crossing guard, who have witnessed many incidents of vehicles ignoring the crosswalks at Main and Water streets, right in front of Town Hall.
It’s a longstanding problem, one that Oxford CAO Linda Cloney says has been the focus of discussions on the Police Advisory Committee.
Council was asked to consider options for improving visibility of the stop signs, including suggestions of installing flashing red lights on the stop signs, or hung in the middle of the intersection.
Councillor Paul Jones noted that the matter of faded crosswalk paint is also a factor.
Ultimately, council appeared interested in building on Springhill’s experience, where cameras were purchased to identify drivers who fail to stop, and have police follow up by fining the drivers in question.
Town staff are looking at the options and councillors will discuss the matter further in budget deliberations. Councillor Brenton Colborne noted that the cost of a light installation could reach several thousands of dollars. Mayor Greg Henley wondered whether the fines levied against drivers might cover the expense.
We haven’t had much snow to contend with so far this winter, but Oxford has already experienced challenges with residents who aren’t taking the winter parking regulations seriously. Council adopted a Snow Clearing and Policing Bylaw at tonight’s meeting, aimed at giving authority to the Town when it comes to dealing with folks who continue to park in the street when plowing needs to be done, and those whose own snow-clearing efforts end up putting snow in the street or on public sidewalks.
CAO Linda Cloney notes the town has had a policy in place, but with a new bylaw in hand there is authority to call in the tow trucks to give snow plows the space they need to keep the streets clear. She noted that staff had been leaving notices on car windshields to ask drivers not to park on the street during snowstorms, but this had little effect on their behaviour.
Before Council went in-camera to deal with an issue with municipal property, Senior Accountant Ruthann Brookins presented an update on the state of the town’s finances.
For the most part, the balance sheet appears to be pretty much on target, though an expensive mystery has popped up with the town’s sewer system. While Brookins noted that power rate increases have hit all aspects of the town’s properties, the electricity demands in the sewer infrastructure are much higher this year than last, and if the trend holds, the town is looking at a nearly 20-thousand-dollar increase for power.
Under questions from councillors, Brookins and Cloney noted that while a small increase might be explained by the use of portable heaters put in place to keep valves from freezing, that much usage is still unusual.
Public Works Supervisor Nick Purdy is said to be looking into the matter. Councillor Colborne, a former Public Works supervisor in Oxford, suggested this could be an indication of an impending failure with one of the sewer system pumps.
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