By Jordan Bankhead, Recovering Lawyer, Serial Entrepreneur, and Victim of the Velvet Ditch
November was a busy month of transition in our city. Fall ebbed as football came to an end with the disappointing Egg Bowl loss. Christmas lights went up on The Oxford Square as Coach Mike Bianco flipped the switch in honor of the Rebel’s national championship in Omaha, welcoming the holiday season. And the Board of Aldermen met to discuss these issues and more at City Hall.
Among notable items, Mac Monteith was appointed to the Reserve and Trust Fund Committee, which manages the city’s proceeds from the sale of the former Baptist Hospital property. Footings are being poured by Andy Fornea Construction for the pocket park next to city hall on The Square. And the Punkin Water connection project is plagued by supply chain issues still affecting the overall economy. Jeff Edge was honored for 25 years of service to the Oxford Police Department, and Micah Quinn at the Oxford Conference Center reported that the Conference Center is back in the black, after generating $950,000 in revenue this year from 266 events, also providing an economic impact of $290,000 in catering revenue and notably $213,000 in mostly weekday hotel revenue.
That was what happened inside city hall. Outside city hall, one old and one new issue promise to affect the Oxford community for years to come. The first issue is garbage. For many years, Oxford, like many other smaller communities in Mississippi, has had to transport its household trash to regional facilities. In Oxford’s case, our regional facility is Three Rivers in Pontotoc. Unfortunately, this increases transportation expenses greatly because not only does the city have to pick up the trash from residences and businesses, but it also has to transport it to the regional facility.
Amberlyn Liles, Director of Environmental Services for the City of Oxford, said “Every three to five years we have to increase prices, and this year transportation costs rose 77 percent from $198 to $350 per load.” Liles also explained that Oxford does not recycle glass because transportation costs are too high and there are no local glass mills. But she said paper, plastic, and aluminum are profitable and the city made $250,000 this year as mills turned paper and plastic into carpet, fleece, and other products.
Perhaps the biggest change in recent years to not only Oxford but communities across Mississippi is the passage of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, which goes into effect this year. As of now, according to ABC, there are six approved dispensaries in Oxford, located primarily along the commercial corridors of Jackson Avenue, North Lamar Boulevard, and University Avenue. According to Ben Requet, Oxford City Planning Director, cannabis dispensaries can be located in commercial districts designated TNB, SCO, SCN, UCO, UCN, and IND by Special Use. Dispensaries must also be located at least 1,000 feet from a school, church, or daycare unless they have a waiver from the facility in question granting them permission to locate within 500 feet. The state also requires a dispensary to be at least 1,500 feet from another dispensary. Using other states as indicators, Mississippi is about to experience a boom in cannabis sales and many comunities across the state according to ABC have now allowed cannabis sales.
One such dispensary is SB Oxford, LLC doing business as Star Buds located at 1319 North Lamar Boulevard. This 2700 square foot facility is currently receiving a major upgrade as the proprietors plan to open to the public soon. Customers will enter from one of two front doors and encounter a retail area where they can view cannabis and related products for sale. These products will be behind a counter as required by Mississippi law. Employees will be trained in medicinal cannabis also as required by Mississippi law. All cannabis sold in Mississippi must be tested for quality and proprietors must use sound storage practices to prevent mold or other issues. Mississippi also requires stringent security like 24/7 video cameras and secure storage for cannabis on site.
One way or another, major changes are coming to our community as we continue to grow and develop, and by being active and involved, we can control these forces for the benefit of everyone.