The city of Oxford switched gears on a request for a slice of the Butler County commissioners’ federal pandemic relief dollars, now wanting to spend their $1.5 million award to further the new Amtrak stop project.
When the commissioners invited other governmental entities and groups to share in their $74.4 million federal windfall, Oxford asked for $1.5 million to create a one-stop-shop for social services, in partnership with the Talawanda Oxford Pantry & Social Services and Family Resource Center.
Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene told the Journal-News she had to pivot away from that plan — for now — because the partner organizations have made changes at the top and the 2026 American Rescue Plan Act project completion deadline is likely unachievable.
“We withdrew the original proposal for the one-stop center just because of the transition with our current non-profits and the timing of the ARPA dollars,” Greene said. “Although we continue to look at models to serve those most in need in our community and have intentions of applying for a new grant, I haven’t given up on that.”
The project the commissioners approved this week is to renovate the TRI Community Center, to accommodate a proposed trade deal that would clear the way for the new Amtrak platform.
The trade would be with the Talawanda School District to acquire the Nelson Morrow building — that houses 17 school district staffers — that is standing in the way of the new train platform near Chestnut Fields. If the deal can be sealed the school employees would move into the city-owned building that houses the Oxford Seniors organization and they in turn would move into a renovated TRI Community Center on Fairfield Road.
“There’s a lot of interest in this multi-generational space which is why we wrote it the way we did,” Greene said. “There can be a seniors wing, the preschool is in there, the gym is in there, a community room. It really has a wonderful potential a great community resource with a really great secondary benefit of opening up that Nelson Morrow building for Amtrak.”
The problem is the city asked for $3 million and the commissioners gave it half that, in line with awards they gave for the community centers in Hamilton and Middletown. The city of Middletown and the schools there requested $6 million to help fund a joint Sonny Hill Community Center expansion project.
The Great Miami Valley YMCA asked for $1.9 million to renovate the Booker T. Washington Community Center in Hamilton.
Greene said she is in the process of meeting with all the players in this multi-faceted deal, “we did ask for $3 million, we didn’t get it, what could we do with $1.5 million — which is very generous and we’re very excited about that — so what does the scope look like at that price point.”
According to the city’s proposal half of the $3 million was going to build a new wing on the community center for the seniors and the rest was to renovate shared operational space, expand the preschool and TRI was going to pay for a new community gym.
“Oxford Seniors and the TRI Board are in the early stages of planning and we welcome the money and are looking for other funds to develop this community center,” Kate Rousmaniere, president of the Oxford Seniors board said. “The board of Oxford Seniors is in agreement that we would like to be part of the new community center, but we haven’t figured out what that would look like yet.”
Officials with Talawanda and TRI could not be reached for comment.
The entire Amtrak platform project hinges on this agreement. The city already received a $2.1 million grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments to build a low-level platform, three covered shelters, a passenger waiting area, restrooms, a ticket kiosk and a digital messaging board.
“This is 100% crucial to Amtrak,” Greene said. “I have a grant for the Amtrak platform and I have a term sheet with Amtrak, but part of that term sheet is removal of Nelson Morrow building. We will find a way to do this.”
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