OFFICIAL MINUTES OF THE OXFORD MAYOR AND COUNCIL MEETING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2020 – 6:30 PM
|ELECTED OFFICIALS PRESENT:
|David Eady – Mayor
||Matt Pepper – City Manager
|George Holt – Councilmember
||Marcia Brooks – City Clerk/Treasurer
|Jim Windham – Councilmember
||Jody Reid – Utility Superintendent
|Jeff Wearing – Councilmember
||Dave Harvey – Police Chief
|Lynn Bohanan – Councilmember
|Laura McCanless – Councilmember
Councilmember Avis Williams was not present.
OTHERS PRESENT: Theresa Eady, Nick Cole, Barbara Cole, Cheryl Ready, Mike Ready, Gwendolyn Green, Darryl Welch – Covington News
Agenda (Attachment A)
1. Mayor’s Announcements
Mayor Eady called the meeting to order and made the
- The American Red Cross will have a Blood Drive in the
Community Room at City Hall on April 1st from 10 am to 2 pm.
- Oxford College held a grand opening celebration on February
2, 2020 for its new Campus Life Center. Mayor
Eady and Councilmembers George Holt and Avis Williams attended.
- The annual Arbor Day Celebration will be held in the Dean’s Dining Hall at Oxford College at 10 am on February 22nd.
- The American Community Survey is not the same as the United
States Census. Anyone who completed the
American Community Survey a few months ago will still need to complete the 2020
U.S. Census. Residents should be
receiving a census form in the mail in the near future. Completion of the census is important because
local and federal funding is tied to it, and it is also good to know the makeup
of the community.
2. Yarbrough House Renovations (Attachment B)
Mayor Eady has received several questions from the community
that he would like to address concerning the Yarbrough House renovations.
a. Why is the structural integrity of the house just now being
The City of Oxford made a strategic decision to purchase the house when the opportunity became available. At the time of purchase, Bureau Veritas inspected the house and found nothing of any concern regarding structural integrity. The City of Oxford recently hired Carter Watkins to begin working on architectural designs, and they raised the concern in their report. A house of that age is likely to have rotted wood and termite damage, and the ability to examine the underside of Yarbrough House is very limited due to its close proximity to the ground.
The only viable solution that will give a high level of confidence in the condition of the house is to tear up the floor and examine the wood underneath. Hiring a structural engineer at this stage would not be helpful because they would not be able to give a definitive answer about the condition of the house without removing flooring either. The City Council and staff have been debating whether to tear up the floor, which is the reason this issue is coming up now. Mayor Eady advised as much wood as possible would be salvaged to put back in the house. The only alternative is jacking up the house, which is exorbitantly expensive, and not a realistic solution.
Mr. Windham stated that when Bureau Veritas inspected the house, an asbestos professional was on site who stated that there is asbestos in the home, and this information was included in their report, but it was not stated where in the house it was. Mr. Windham recommends an asbestos inspection before it is opened to the public. Mayor Eady asked Mr. Reid to follow up with Bureau Veritas to get some more information about this statement in the report.
b. Can the proposed uses of the house be accomplished through
use of existing space at City Hall?
Mayor Eady stated that when Melvin Baker was on the City Council, he led a committee that spoke to a number of people in the community, and they sought input from historical experts at the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission (NEGRC). The recommendation of that committee was that the house would be well used as a welcome center/museum. Over time the purpose has evolved into a community center. The City of Oxford then hired Erik Oliver to conduct a historical study of the property, and he concurred with the City Council’s plans. The Oxford Historical Society has walked through the house, and they concur as well. There has also been discussion about the Society curating displays in the building.
At City Hall we do have the Community Room, but there are issues with security of City Hall records and money in this building. Mr. Windham pointed out that if the Community Room is made available for this purpose, a staff member would have to let them in and work outside normal business hours.
Mr. Windham recommended a committee to come to some kind of
compromise on the use of the building.
Part of the responsibility with this house is to make sure taxpayer
funds are spent to benefit the most people.
He believes the greatest benefit would be derived from making part of it
suitable for meeting space and locking off part of it to preserve it.
Mayor Eady is not interested in forming another
committee. He believes the City Council
needs to come to a decision about how the facility should be used and how it
should be renovated.
Mr. Holt asked if the City of Oxford is still working with Carter Watkins. Mayor Eady advised the city is not working with them. Mr. Holt expressed concern about spending any more funds on professional consulting fees and wants to spend the least amount possible to get the building usable. He agrees with Mr. Windham’s proposal.
Mr. Windham also stated that the outside would be
appropriate as a quiet garden for the citizens of Oxford.
Ms. Bohanan agrees with making as few changes as possible to
the inside and outside. As for end use
of the house, she does not have any issues with the ideas that have been
proposed thus far. She does agree that
parts of the house not being used should be sectioned off.
Ms. McCanless agrees and supports Option A of the three architectural
options included in the attachment. She
feels that Option A retains the most historical value and charm, and therefore
makes it more marketable.
c. Have ongoing costs been considered once renovations have
The City of Oxford is aware that there will be ongoing costs
of insurance and utilities. There are no
plans to staff the facility with City employees. Once renovations are complete, the current
thought is that the Oxford Historical Society will curate displays and manage
rental of the facility. Mr. Windham
feels that renters should be able to come to City Hall to pick up a key.
Mr. Wearing stated that completing the steps of verifying
structural integrity of the house will dictate to some extent the next steps
that are taken. Mayor Eady stated that
the next step is to get to a point where the City Council can vote on one of
the plans for renovation and release the project for bids. The City of Oxford will need to work with a
contractor who understands that unforeseen issues may arise, but those issues
will have to be dealt with as they come up.
Ms. Gwendolyn Green asked if interior sprinklers are
required. She also expressed concerns
about all the issues to deal with in an old house, such as moisture under the
house. Mayor Eady advised a water
barrier will be put in when the floors are pulled up to protect the wood. The City is not aware of any requirements for
d. Is the standing seam metal roof historically appropriate?
Standing seam metal roofs have been used in the Southeast United States since the mid-1800s. They are found more often on farmhouses than on houses in cities, but this house is not considered “fancy.” This house was built around 1875. It is as appropriate as a variety of other materials that may have been used then, including asphalt shingles and wood shake shingles.
Ms. McCanless stated that the most likely roof types used on
a house like this would have been a milled wood shingle or a standing seam
metal roof. Mayor Eady stated that there
has been a metal roof on the house for at least fifty years.
Mayor Eady advised he would put a document together for the
Council to vote on once he has information back from Mr. Reid about the
asbestos issue. He does not see the need
to spend more money on additional architectural drawings.
Mr. Windham stated he hopes the result would be a
combination of Options B and C. Ms.
McCanless stated that would change the historical profile of the house and
would cost more money. Ms. Bohanan feels
Option A is the obvious choice because it is the most economical, stays true to
the historical profile of the building, and is supported by the Oxford
Historical Society. Mr. Holt wants to do
the minimum amount of work required to make the building safe while keeping it
basically like it is in appearance.
Mayor Eady stated the next steps to get drawings updated:
- Keep the house as is except for the back part
- Repurpose back section into ADA compliant bathrooms
- Make these bathrooms accessible from inside and outside
- Incorporate ability to shut off part of the house
Mayor Eady will work with Ms. McCanless to have Forrest
McCanless update the CAD drawings, then talk to some contractors to find out
how much documentation is needed before hiring a contractor. The plans provided by Carter Watkins are
subject to copyright and they are not willing to release them to the City of
Ms. Green asks where parking would be, and in particular,
handicap parking. Mayor Eady advised the
current plan is to have parking where the garage was, including handicap
spaces, and have a ramp going into the building from the parking lot.
3. Traffic Calming (Attachment C)
Mr. Pepper discussed two bids the City of Oxford has
received for placing traffic calming devices on East Soule Street. The lowest bid per speed hump is from Designed
Installations at a cost of $2,227.50 per speed hump. If the city wishes to move forward with
installation of the speed humps, staff recommends hiring Designed Installations
to complete the job. Mayor Eady added
that the plan for now is to install two speed humps, and a third one can be
added between the first two if it is determined later that it is needed.
Mr. Wearing asked Chief Harvey if the proposal is consistent
with what he originally recommended.
Chief Harvey confirmed that it is.
Mr. Holt asked if photographs are available to see what the
finished product would look like. He has
seen some that have concrete blocks and have white reflective paint shaped in
triangles to give them some depth for visibility at night. Mr. Reid advised they will have yellow
paint. They are made of asphalt and
anchored into the road. They are similar
to a speed table but create a hump rather than a flat top. Ms. Bohanan pointed out that there will also
be signage to warn drivers on approach to the speed humps.
Mr. Reid advised he would find out if arrows could be
painted on the humps. Mayor Eady advised
the Council would vote on moving forward with this work at the next regular
4. Maintenance Contract for Asbury Street Park (Attachment D)
Mayor Eady stated that Great Estates Landscaping has been
performing maintenance at Asbury Street Park on a month-to-month basis. The proposed contract retains Great Estates
for one (1) year at a total cost of $6,500 for grass cutting, weed control, and
ant control. No pesticides or herbicides
will be used.
Ms. Theresa Eady asked why this work is not done in house by
City of Oxford employees. Mayor Eady
explained that our grounds crew is extremely busy cutting rights of way and
other city property. The City does not
have a team trained for formal landscaping.
The cost is less than hiring another full-time employee.
5. Replace Storm Drain on Longstreet Circle (Attachment E)
Mr. Pepper advised that the storm drain at this location has
eroded away and is caving in. The City
of Oxford plans for storm drain maintenance but does not have enough money
budgeted to complete this replacement and the repair to the storm drain on
Moore Street (see #6). Mayor Eady
advised the City can make an amendment to the budget to move funds from the
Capital Projects budget to cover these expenses. Two bids were obtained for this
replacement. The staff recommendation is
to hire the low bidder to make the replacement (HCS Services, LLC -
$11,700). The pipe will be replaced with
reinforced plastic pipe.
6. Repair Storm Drain on Moore Street (Attachment F)
The storm drain box structure in the street has collapsed on
Moore Street. The box will be moved to
be under the sidewalk so that it will only have pedestrian traffic over it
rather than motor vehicle traffic. This
work will be performed concurrently with the Moore Street sidewalk
project. The staff recommendation is to
hire the low bidder to make the repair (HCS Services, LLC - $23,500).
7. FY2019 LMIG Excess Funds (Attachment G)
Mr. Pepper stated that each year the City of Oxford receives
funds from the State of Georgia to repair streets in the City. There were some funds remaining from FY2019,
and the City has three (3) years to spend it.
Staff proposes using the funds to do deep patching repairs to ten (10)
areas on Longstreet Circle. This street
never had a good base, which has contributed to this problem. Performing deep patching will seal the existing
areas and prevent water damage to them.
This is an interim solution until the road can be repaved. Staff recommends awarding this project to the
low bidder of two (2) bids (MHB Paving - $20,000.77). It is difficult to know how much base is
needed before tearing up the road, so the actual cost may be a little more or
8. Maintenance Facility Fence (Attachment H)
During the last work session, the condition of the
maintenance facility fence was discussed.
Mr. Reid had recommended replacing it rather than repairing parts of it,
to keep the whole fence on the same replacement cycle. At that time Mayor Eady advised the
Councilmembers to go look at the fence themselves.
Mayor Eady has looked at the fence and observed that the
section on Emory Street is much more weathered than the section on Asbury
Street. The fence is about fourteen
years old. Ms. McCanless added that the
only section that looks decent is the section on Asbury Street. She also observed that the repaired/replaced
fence needs to be lifted off the ground, because the parts touching the ground
are infested with termites.
Ms. McCanless is willing to research other options for
synthetic materials. She contacted the
company that makes Trex. It is
guaranteed for 25 years. It is made from
recycled wood and plastic bags. The
company makes a concerted effort to use environmentally friendly procedures in
their manufacturing process. Mr. Reid
advised that The Fence Man does not work with synthetic materials so he could
not get a quote from him.
Ms. McCanless also observed that the area around the fenceposts
was crumbling and did not seem like concrete.
Mayor Eady stated that the landscaping also needs some
attention to keep moisture off it. Ms.
Bohanan stated that the fence posts should be beveled at the top to help water
run off them better. Ms. McCanless also
had noticed that the basic design might need to be adjusted because there was a
lot of warping in the current fence.
Ms. McCanless will continue with her research and get some
bids and report back to the City Council in a few weeks.
9. George Street Park Fence (Attachment I)
Two bids are included
in Attachment I for replacement of the split-rail fences on the North and South
sides of George Street Park. Part of the
fence sits in an easement, and that part will be replaced. The recommendation from the Trees, Parks and
Recreation Board is to approve a contract with The Fence Man for $2,675, which
is the lower bid.
10. Participation in Earth Day Event
Mayor Eady announced that this year will be the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Ms. McCanless stated that Sustainable Newton would like to celebrate the event county-wide. They are checking with municipalities to see how they would like to celebrate on different days of the week. It is the week of April 22nd. Oxford might choose something related to our trails or set up a farmer’s market. Oxford College might also be willing to do a kids’ science fair. Mr. Windham has advocated for a long time for a bike rally, which could be incorporated into the trail map. Mayor Eady suggested asking Melissa Hage if the possibility of doing something kid-focused related to science is feasible. Ms. McCanless will circle back with Sustainable Newton to get an update on their progress in planning, and also talk to Melissa Hage.
11. Reselling Plots at the Cemetery
City Clerk Marcia Brooks requested guidance from the City Council on reselling of plots. This issue came up during the Oxford Historical Cemetery Foundation’s annual meeting. An individual who owns a plot in the Oxford Historical Cemetery wishes to have a pod burial. That issue will need to be researched further by staff and presented at a future work session for discussion, but the individual also asked if in the event burial is not allowed in this manner, the plot could be sold. The selling of plots to third parties by individuals who have purchased them is not contemplated in the city’s ordinances.
Mayor Eady stated the
ordinance does specify that someone purchasing burial rights must live within
the city limits or have lived within them in the past, and the City Council can
approve exceptions to this standard under special circumstances.
Mr. Windham stated
that at some point the City had changed the ordinance to convey burial rights
rather than convey ownership of the plot.
Staff will need to research to determine when this change occurred. Any plots that were sold prior to this change
are fee-simple, and the City of Oxford cannot prohibit the sale of them. However, the City of Oxford still owns the
plots that were sold with burial rights only.
Mr. Reid and Mr. Holt
stated that several individuals have sold and donated plots in the past.
Mayor Eady stated
that the database/map of the cemetery maintained at City Hall needs to indicate
whether each purchase was/is fee simple or burial rights so that if this issue
comes up again, staff or the City Council can refer to the information to
answer whether the plot(s) can be sold or not.
The family of Marguerite
Antoine approached the podium to inform the City Council of their request for
an exception to the requirement that only those residing within the city limits
or who have resided with the city limits in the past can purchase burial
Ms. Antoine was
killed in a car accident the previous week.
She has lived at 80 Northwood Creek Way, Oxford, Georgia for the past
seventeen years and paid taxes. She had
walked through the Oxford Historical Cemetery and expressed her desire to be
buried there upon her death. When she
died, they spoke to the City Manager and were told that if the City of Oxford
made an exception for them, they would have to make one for everyone.
Ms. Antoine’s daughter Genevieve told the City Council that her mother moved around a lot as a child, and she had lived in Oxford longer than any other place in her life. She attended Newton County schools and was surprised to find out they lived outside the city limits. She asked if it was possible to make an exception for this situation to allow them to purchase burial rights for her mother’s cremains since all the taxes her mother paid went to Oxford.
Ms. Antoine’s cousin stated that Ms. Antoine worked for the Department of Defense. Before she came to Oxford, she researched the area to ensure she wanted to buy a house and raise her children here. She was impressed with how the cemetery was set up and appreciated its history and expressed that she wanted to be buried there if she should pass away while she lives here. Her children would like to honor her wishes, and request that the City Council waive the requirement of living in the city limits to purchase burial rights. The memorial service was held at Caldwell & Cowan, and they are waiting for the city’s decision regarding burial of the cremains.
Mayor Eady spoke to the technical issues while stating that they have no bearing on the City Council’s ultimate decision regarding this request. The address where Ms. Antoine lived is outside the city limits of Oxford. A lot of people live outside the city limits but have an Oxford address. Her taxes would have been paid to Newton County, and Oxford would not have received any of that money. The city ordinance does give the City Council the opportunity to consider special circumstances.
Mayor Eady stated
that when he first heard about the request, he was not sure about the timing,
and did not realize there would be time for the City Council to discuss it.
Mr. Holt asked if the
family paid any utilities to Oxford. Mr.
Reid stated they are about four (4) miles outside our service area.
Mayor Eady stated he was glad the family is attending so that he can hear their personal story, which he was not previously aware of. He is 100% sure that a spot can be found in the cemetery for the family if the City Council is amenable to this, whether it be through a donation or sale, or through the City Council selling burial rights to them. It is within the City Council’s power to make an exception based on special circumstances.
Mr. Windham stated
that a vote cannot be made in a work session.
The next opportunity to vote would be at the regular City Council
session on March 2nd. Mr. Windham asked
that City of Oxford staff try to locate someone who could donate or sell a fee
simple lot to the family so that they did not have to wait until the next regular
session, and report back to the City Council on their findings. Mr. Windham stated he would be in favor of
allowing the family to buy burial rights.
All Councilmembers present concurred that they would be in favor as
The cost to purchase one
lot is $750.
Ms. Barbara Cole
asked if it would be possible to set aside some land on the back side of the
cemetery for pod burials. Mayor Eady
stated that is something we should explore further. Ms. McCanless stated that pod burials are
better suited for more naturalistic areas and setting aside an area away from
the stones and existing graves is an excellent idea to consider. Mr. Windham stated another possible area may
be the land purchased behind Orna Villa that could be made into a park.
Ms. Eady stated that
the City of Oxford needs to research state requirements concerning embalming
and other requirements before proceeding with allowing this type of
burial. Ms. McCanless stated that the
Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County allows pod burials now and the
City of Oxford can look to their procedures for guidelines as well. She feels it is a realistic option and one
that many would like to choose, so it would be good to offer it if we can.
Mayor Eady stated
that the issue of ownership of plots will also come into play for those who
have already purchased fee-simple lots or burial rights from the City of
Oxford. Those who have purchased
fee-simple lots can sell their lot if they would rather have a pod burial, but
those who have purchased burial rights can only give theirs to a family
Ms. Green asked if
there is a prohibition on planting trees in the cemetery, as she recalls a tree
being planted during the Arbor Day celebration several years ago. Ms. Brooks stated that no decision was made
at the annual Cemetery Foundation meeting.
Mayor Eady stated
that the Cemetery Foundation makes no decisions about what is in the cemetery,
these decisions are made by the City of Oxford.
12. Resolution for Franchise Fee (Attachment J)
Association (GMA) recommends we adopt a resolution setting our franchise fee
for cable and video providers. A vendor
is requesting to put fiber on Moore Street, and the City of Oxford needs to
negotiate a franchise fee with them.
Setting this resolution will set a standard fee for all providers. The resolution will be voted on in the March
2nd regular session, and if passed, will be sent to the Georgia Secretary of
State where a database is maintained.
Major providers check this database to see if cities have these fees
Mr. Windham requested
that the City of Oxford draft a resolution objecting to HB 302 and Senate Bill
172 which prohibit municipalities from regulating design elements for one- and
two-family dwellings. Mayor Eady asked
Mr. Pepper to contact the City of Porterdale and request a copy of their
resolution and Oxford can model its resolution after it.
Mr. Windham made a
motion to adjourn at 8:20 p.m. Mr. Holt
seconded the motion. The motion was
approved unanimously (6/0).