Oxford City Council continues Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area talks

Oxford’s City Council discussed so many topics at its most recent meeting the agenda kept them there late into the night.

Four of the resolutions on the early November meeting agenda related to money matters, with one of them and two others related to police department items. Another one dealt with revisions to update the city’s employee Handbook, while another one was brought up for discussion of ways to provide safe sidewalk alternatives during construction projects.

A resolution to re-open the city’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area during the time of the upcoming university holiday break seemed headed for a quick vote of approval until the discussion became focused on simply leaving the DORA in place for all times of the year.

The resolution imitated one of a year ago to open the DORA between Dec. 17 and Jan. 23. The original DORA legislation was proposed to offer an on-street public drinking area only during the summer months when fewer students were in town in order to curb risks of underage drinking or disorderly conduct incidents. Then last fall, a resolution extended that to the holiday period. This new resolution was designed to copy that approach, but then the discussion changed to simply leaving it in place beyond the January date.

Approval was moved by Edna Southard with a second from Glenn Ellerbe, who suggested the amendment as a test of how well it goes with a full complement of students in town.

“The DORA provides a tremendous economic improvement to our town. As it is written, we must approve changes. If we open the DORA to everyone in town, it will improve the overall (economic) health of the town,” Ellerbe said. “It’s worth a shot to see if it works.”

He then proposed amending the resolution to remove the Jan. 23 date, thus automatically extending the DORA until a future action changes it. He also proposed extending the area of the DORA to include the Oxford Community Arts Center on South College Avenue. The western limit of the DORA currently is Beech Street.

City Manager Doug Elliott pointed out the OCAC does not have a liquor license.

Ellerbe proposed giving the city manager authority to shut down the DORA if there are too many problems.

The amendment drew a second from David Prytherch, who said he was doing that simply to allow the discussion to continue.

Police chief John Jones said he was apprehensive about the proposed amendment and extension of the DORA saying he had been out on the streets the previous Friday night and had seen so many red (Solo) cups officers were not able to write all the citations, instead being forced to simply throw the drinks out.

“The litter generated is pretty heavy, especially from one particular bar,” chief Jones said.

Mayor Mike Smith said it might be worth the experiment but hesitated to do it at a meeting when the public was not aware of it. He suggested if they want to try having the DORA when students are in residence, they try a pilot program after spring break.

No formal vote was taken on the proposed amendment but Council members agreed to leave the resolution as proposed and to have a discussion of extending the DORA at a later time.

The resolution as it appeared on the agenda for the DORA from Dec. 17 to Jan. 23 was approved on a 6-0 vote, with vice Mayor Bill Snavely absent from the meeting.

Other Oxford City Council items

A resolution intended to be a point of discussion had been proposed by Prytherch to city staff but was placed on the agenda to get a consensus of Council. It was to “ensure safe passage of pedestrians and wheelchair users on sidewalks, walkways and temporary pedestrian access routes during building and roadway construction.”

Prytherch said he had intended for the discussion to create a standard way of dealing with sidewalk closures which continue for a great length of time. The idea was triggered by the situation just across the street from the Courthouse building. That particular sidewalk situation is worsened by the fact the construction is “lot line to lot line” forcing people to either use the street or cross the street and proceed on the other side.

Council member Edna Southard said a lot of factors cause a project to go longer than expected but said she was uneasy about a covered sidewalk area in the street because “accidents happen.” She said it makes sense to cross the street and use the sidewalk on the other side.

The resolution passed on a 4-2 vote with Southard and Smith voting against it.

All of the remaining seven resolutions were approved on 6-0 votes.

In one of those dealing with money issues, Council authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Division for a grant from their Urban Canopy grant program. In most cases Council is asked to approve acceptance of grant money after application and approval. In this case, however, the ODNR requires action to proceed with acceptance of the money if it is offered.

Also approved was allocation of part of the expected Community Development Block Grant funds — approximately $113,000 — for construction of a parking lot and extension of West Walnut Street to accommodate the planned College@Elm project, a joint venture by the city and Miami University.

Another was related to that one, appropriating funds from the American Rescue Plan allocation to College@Elm improvements.

Another finance-related resolution approved an upgrade to the existing contract for the police department body worn cameras.

The other resolutions approved at the meeting included a renewal of the police mutual aid agreement with Miami University, an expansion of that agreement for a new information sharing agreement to better address alleged sex offenses and offenses of violence and another for changes to the city’s employee handbook intended to update rules.

Those updates include such things as adding another personal day for Juneteenth, adding parental leave options as well as provisions for leaves of absence.

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