The decision comes as the council hired a Birmingham firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood to start engineering services on a $6.5 million project to improve the parkway.
The largest portion of that cost — about $5 million — will be paid for through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program. Over the last two years, the project has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in roadway improvements in the state.
ATRIP funding requires municipalities to put up some of its own money toward the work. Oxford’s portion of the parkway project should cost about $1.5 million, city leaders say.
Keith Strickland, with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, estimates the project will be completed in May 2015.
While planning for the parkway project, the council had discussed closing one end of Boiling Springs Road as a cost-saving measure, but instead agreed to realign it to intersect with the entrance to Oxford’s planned sports complex, located across the parkway. Realigning the road and installing a traffic light at the intersection will increase safety there, city officials have said.
Other work includes widening two bridges over Choccolocco Creek on the parkway and constructing turning lanes into the sports complex. Additionally, plans call for widening and lengthening turning lanes into the southern entrance of the Oxford Exchange at Crystal Waterway Drive, and into the Publix supermarket.
The council also agreed Tuesday to rezone a commercial building at 803 Bama Drive in Oxford from “neighborhood shopping center” to “light manufacturing.”
The new owner of the 10,000-square-foot building, Ronnie Smith, plans to relocate his Oxford company, Manufacturing Technology and Services, to the new facility.
The company makes orthopedic equipment, Smith said, and is currently operates in a leased building on Alabama 21 in Oxford. The new facility doubles the company’s space, Smith said.
Councilman Mike Henderson said the company currently employees eight, and Smith would like to grow the business after the move, possibly hiring another eight workers.
During public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting, Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge spoke to the council about concerns he has about drug rehabilitation facilities operating in the city.
“I’m aware of individuals needing to have rehab,” Partridge said. “But I believe that if you’re going to have a rehab facility, and you’re going to be a part of a rehab facility, it should be one that is controlled and has regulations. The ones we have in our city currently today have no regulations.”
Many of these facilities are located in residential neighborhoods, Partridge said, and he believes they are contributing to crime in the city.
“They have felons in these houses,” Partridge said.
Partridge said 85 percent of the crime in Oxford is related to drug activity, and the drug rehabilitation facilities play a role in that.
A January shooting incident in Oxford involved an escaped resident from one of the drug rehabilitation facilities, Partridge said. The man began breaking into homes, Partridge said, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. An officer spotted the man, who then attempted to stab the officer and was shot and killed, Partridge said.
“We can eliminate a lot of these problems by regulating these places and getting them out of our city,” Partridge said.
Mayor Leon Smith expressed his support of Partridge’s request. Council President Steven Waits said he and the council are in agreement that something needs to be done about the facilities.
The zoning board has contacted the facilities, said Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard, to inform the businesses that they’re operating outside of the city’s zoning laws.
“They are functioning as boarding houses, and they are not zoned for boarding houses,” Hubbard said.
Before adjourning, the council voted to go into executive session to discuss the buying and selling of real estate. After the brief, closed-door session the council returned and took no action before closing the meeting.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.