Oxford council approves grant applications to clean, improve drainage near OPAC

Jul. 14—OXFORD — The Oxford City Council approved applying for two separate grants that will be focused on removing dilapidated buildings and improving drainage issues in the area east of the Oxford Performing Arts Center.

That is the area located between Snow Street and Choccolocco Street that was recently designated as the site for the proposed Alabama Children's Museum.

The council's action Tuesday will commit $420,205 matching funds to a Community Block Development Grant "to make drainage improvements and structure removal in the downtown area."

The council also committed $140,410 matching funds toward an Appalachian Regional Foundation grant focused on "making drainage improvements in the downtown area."

Matt Hawes of CDG Engineers and Associates told council members the grants are for a project that has been discussed before, but is being updated due to "some additional grant funding we were able to find that significantly reduced the city's required match."

He explained the original reason to apply for the grant was to secure funds for removal of old and vacant structures at that location; however, the potential of minimizing a future drainage problem made the revised grant applications better suited for the location.

"There is a large drainage ditch that goes through there," Hawes said. "It is anticipated as that develops into another use, that is going to have to be dealt with."

"Rather than having to go after that type of drainage improvement this time, what we are proposing is going upstream and see if we can find a suitable location for a detention pond that could hold back some of the larger storms and release it at a slower rate," Hawes said. "This could reduce the size of the pipe needed later on in that area and that would come at a lower cost."

Council members did not take action on a request to rezone a property located at 8 Main Street from an R-1 Residential District zone to a Neighborhood Shopping zone.

Council President Chris Spurlin explained to property owner Gordon McGrue the council was wary about making the change without knowing exactly what type of business he planned to locate there.

"For the residents' protection, we can't just change the zone not knowing what is coming in," Spurlin said.

McGrue said his plans were to improve the property before renting it out and could not be specific on what or who the renter might be.

Spurlin suggested McGrue come back to the city planning commission once he has confirmed what type of business he was able to locate in the building and re-do the rezoning process from that point.

Council members spent several minutes praising the city staff for its work during July 4th and the Team USA softball games at Choccolocco Park on July 5 and 6.

"Everybody complimented the field," said Councilman Steven Waits. "But, I got more compliments from the players about our people than our field."

"They said it was one of the nicest fields they had ever played on, but what made the place special was our people," Waits said.