Speed limit proposal a bust with aldermen

The Oxford Eagle By Lucy Schultze
November 20, 2002

The Oxford Board of Aldermen has given a thumbs down to a proposal to raise the speed limit on portions of West Jackson Avenue.

At Tuesday's board meeting, Mayor Richard Howorth and Public Works Director David Bennett recommended to aldermen that the speed limit be raised from 30 to 40 mph from Heritage Drive to Highway 6 and from Sorority Row to Fraternity Row.

While city ordinances designate all streets as 30 mph unless otherwise marked, Bennett said that a state law provides for speed limits to be set based on engineering and traffic studies. A recent three-day traffic study showed the median speed on that portion of the road was 39.8 mph, he said. Aldermen weren't convinced.

"As a lay person, it really doesn't make sense to me that the faster people go, the higher you set the speed limit," said Ward 3 Alderman Janice Antonow.

As part of their justification against raising the speed limit, Antonow and fellow board members noted upcoming construction projects along Jackson Avenue which include the last phase of the Jackson Avenue expansion, a new intersection at the north-south corridor and possibly a major reconfiguration of the intersection at Highway 6.

Oxford Police Chief Steve Bramlett said the increase from 30 to 40 mph along the 2.1-mile stretch would save drivers 63 seconds if they caught all the green lights. It would also greatly increase the risk of serious injury if an accident were to occur, he said.

"We've discussed it back and forth," Howorth said, adding he feels 40 mph is a "reasonable" limit.

"I've noticed myself going down Jackson Avenue, I tend to especially now in my present occupation obey the speed limit. Sometimes it feels like I'm going in slow motion."

Bennett said he ordered the placement of 40 mph speed limit signs on West Jackson Avenue about two weeks ago and will now have to replace them. Until then, drivers can go 40 mph without breaking the law, he said.

Aldermen agreed to reconsider the proposal to raise the speed limit after the last phase of the Jackson Avenue expansion is completed some time in 2004.

In other business Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen:

Began the process of amending city ordinances to require a fee for preliminary plat approval of new subdivisions and commercial developments. Bennett said site plan review meetings require the time and expertise of all city department heads, who have many other responsibilities on a given day.

The proposed changes, which will be up for public comment at the board's Dec. 3 meeting, would require payment of $100 plus $5 per lot when a preliminary subdivision plat is filed.

The proposed changes will also charge $100 for the first on-site inspection of a subdivision and $200 for each subsequent inspection until the project is brought into compliance with all city codes. Fees for commercial developments will be $100 for site plan review, $50 for the first inspection and $75 for subsequent inspections.

Began the process of setting a rate for the use of city parking spaces and other public property for storage of materials and equipment during construction. The city is considering a charge of $8 per day for each 200-square-foot parking space, and would require the bill to be paid before granting a certificate of zoning compliance at the end of the project. Before a public hearing at the Dec. 3 meeting, city staff will also look into requiring a permit to close a street for construction purposes and how to address the use of city streets outside the Central Business District.

Approved a change order of $51,000 for Phase One of the Goose Creek Sewer Rehabilitation project due to the unforeseen poor condition of the soil along West Jackson Avenue. The project is being funded in full by a Community Development Block Grant and Bennett said he is hopeful that the grant will also cover the additional costs.

Approved a proclamation declaring the existence of a local emergency in the wake of the Nov. 10 storm which caused $79,000 in damage to the city and $120,000 in damage to on the University of Mississippi campus. Oxford Fire Chief Jerry Johnson said the city should hear by the end of the week whether the city's declaration will be approved by the Federal Emergency Management Association.

Agreed to advertise for bids on three electricity generators to serve City Hall, the city shop and the public works building, all of which lost power during the recent storm.

Bennett said that city crews working overnight to clear streets and restore power in the wake of the storm had to use flashlights to find the materials they needed. In the event of a more serious emergency, the mayor and aldermen would need lights and telephones in order to set up a command post in the basement of City Hall.

Agreed to consider an amendment to the city's animal ordinance proposed by the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society which would raise the cost of dog licenses for animals who have not been spayed or neutered. City residents are currently required to purchase a $5 license for their dogs; the change would raise the price for intact animals to $10 or $15.

Authorized the mayor to engage legal services for the purpose of reviewing the city's contract with Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. The board has wanted for many months to better understand the contract through which the city and Lafayette County lease the hospital building to Baptist, but city attorneys Mayo Mallette PLLC cannot help due to a conflict of interest.

Authorized the hiring of six new police officers and agreed to continue advertising to fill two more open slots in the department. Joining OPD are: Scott Roberts, Corey Burrow, LeShaun McWright, Andy McGregor and Scott McDonald.

Promoted Raymond Owens to fill the lineman crew spot left by the resignation of Eddie Magee and authorized the advertisement for a right-of-way foreman to fill Owens' former position.

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