The brewing crisis over how city streets
and pipes can keep pace with exploding demand from new apartments
and condos erupted with a new urgency Tuesday evening.
City leaders narrowly stopped short of
simply halting water and sewer service to new developments outside
city limits until they can get a handle on the crisis.
Were going to keep approving
them and then were going to flood with you-know-what,
warned Ward 1 Alderman Pat Patterson, proposing a 60-day moratorium
on approving such development. Im pretty sure we
ought to step back and take a breather.
Aldermen Ulysses Coach Howell
and Richard DeVoe supported the idea, with aldermen Bill Baker,
E.O. Oliver and Janice Antonow voting against it.
Mayor Richard Howorth broke the tie, saying
there would just be that many more projects waiting for city
boards at the end of the 60 days. Instead, city leaders will
sit down with public works officials in the next week to gauge
the problem and weigh their options.
Were almost certainly going
to reach capacity before we have new wastewater facilities
unless we get some big-time help from an outside source,
The current crisis began building in the
early spring, when engineering officials confirmed that parts
of the citys sewer system were being pushed to their limits
by the dramatic growth in west Oxford.
The most urgent problem is that some pipes
are too small to handle their load, but a major expansion of
the wastewater treatment plant is also needed.
Its been more than a year since the
development rate first started causing this concern, but officials
kept thinking that the rate would surely decline. It hasnt.
If the recent local 8 percent growth rate
holds, the community is poised to double its population in a
decade and become the fastest-growing in the state.
New growth, and additions to the
tax rolls, alone cannot support (road and utility) improvements
because the rate is simply too dramatic, Howorth said
in a report to the board.
City Engineer David Bennett estimates it
will cost some $12 million to expand the treatment plant, and
another $3 million to $4 million to upgrade the main sewer lines.
Thats why city leaders are now turning desperately to
state and federal representatives for help.
State Sen. Gray Tollison said this morning
theres just an outside chance state funds might be found
before the Legislatures 2005 session begins in January.
I dont know if its possible,
but were going to at least try and talk to the leadership
in House and Senate and just explain to them, he said.
Oxford is a beacon for the state, so its important
not only for the city but for the state as well.
Tollison said its possible he and
Rep. Noal Akins could lobby on behalf of local needs sooner
if Gov. Haley Barbour calls legislators back to consider bond
bills in August or September.
City leaders have also met with U.S. Sen.
Thad Cochrans office and are planning meetings with Rep.
Roger Wickers staff and Northern District Highway Commissioner
Ward 5 Alderman Preston Taylor was absent
from Tuesdays meeting due to his fathers death.
In other business Tuesday, the Board of
Granted $4,000 from the tourism fund to
help with publicity and other expenses for the Smithsonian Institutions
Key Ingredients exhibit at the Powerhouse Community
Arts Center this fall.
Hired Daniels-Williams Engineering to design
the Oxford Skate Park slated for the current location of the
Dizzy Dean ballfield.
Commended city water, sewer and street
departments for timely completion of the South Lamar sewer rehabilitation
Patterson said hed honor his promise
to take the city engineer and assistant out to dinner. Alderman-at-Large
Baker and Howorth offered to take the 24 city workers out to
lunch at one of the four South Lamar restaurants affected by
the street work.