Few issues in local politics inflame public opinion more than traffic and safety issues. On the surface, stop signs, cross walks, and street lights may not seem likely to raise a stink, but look closer and they are at the heart of some of the most contentious local debates.
If you drove down South Lamar in the past few weeks, you may have seen one of those raised sidewalks anchored by flashing lights that are all over town going in. After a special meeting Monday, August 21, the Board of Aldermen voted to remove that sidewalk. For the record, this may be the shortest lived sidewalk in Oxford’s history. The sidewalk looked good on paper and met all engineering and planning requirements according to City Engineer Reanna Mayoral, but after a public backlash and safety concerns raised by Oxford Chief of Police Jeff McCutchen, the Aldermen voted to remove the sidewalk.
The issue was raised at the Board of Aldermen meeting on August 14, where a public debate about whether to put in a sidewalk at the corner of Buchanan and South Lamar was held. Several local residents appeared and opposed the sidewalk and the Aldermen voted to table the issue. Given the beginning of the school year at Ole Miss Monday, August 21, it was decided that in the interest of public safety a special meeting regarding the sidewalk would be held.
This brings us to the growth in the student body at Ole Miss, a number that is sure to affect each and every Oxford resident. Two years ago, freshmen enrollment was 3,800 students. Last year it was 4,500. And this year, according to Ward 1 Alderman Rick Addy, the number is over 5,300. This high growth is good for Oxford business, as any business owner (including yours truly) can attest. However, this growth also comes at a price. Our prized roundabouts and short highway on ramps will be tested by young drivers away from home for the first time. Our able police department will be tested by kids who experiment with drugs and alcohol. But through it all, Oxford will rise to the challenge as it always does.
Many of us in the community either went to school at Ole Miss, worked there, or enjoy sporting events on campus. The blessings far outweigh the burdens, and I challenge you, dear reader, to remember that when you’re sitting in traffic on Jackson Avenue on a Friday afternoon.
Anyway, on to other business at city hall. A general obligation note for $2.3 million to fund upgrades to city environmental equipment was approved. The city’s subscription to Delta Computer Systems to manage its tax software was also approved. Yolanda Logan was appointed to the Oxford Planning Commission. And Jason Lowe was re-appointed to the Oxford Park Commission (OPC). And OPC reported that the city pool offered water aerobics this summer.
This was the second year of a power wheels derby for the children of Oxford and a super hero night was also held. Over 100 kids signed up for the super hero night. And OPC administered two large tennis tournaments, including the Mississippi high school state tournament, and the Mississippi over 40 state championship.
Adult kick ball has grown in popularity and softball has declined. 500 plus free swim lessons were given this year. And Alderman Jason Bailey questioned pool maintenance given the presence of algae at the city pool. He said it may be time to bring in outside professionals to manage the pool. And the aldermen authorized two city employees to attend congressional hearings in Washington, DC.
Looking forward to the fall, Visit Oxford will hold Music in the Park at the new pocket park next to City Hall. The concerts will be held on September 23, October 19, November 16, and December 21, 2023. And just like that, summer is winding down and fall is beginning. Last week we got a taste of Faulkner’s fall and soon enough, it will be here. But until then, dear reader, stay cool and safe on these hot and humid final days of summer.