Oxford Mayor's Unfinished Business Includes New Park, Connectivity
October 8, 2015
Mayor Jerry Roseberry has unfinished business, and it seems the citizens of Oxford are happy to have him attend to it. Nearing the end of his second four-year term as Mayor, Roseberry was the only candidate to qualify for the November election, meaning he starts his third term in January.
Topping the Mayor’s to do list for the coming year is a planned city park along Emory Street, just south of the Oxford Historical Cemetery, between Collingsworth Street and West Watson Street. According to Roseberry, when the city recently surveyed residents and Oxford College of Emory University students, parks and greenspace topped the list of their desired improvements. Thus, the new park is a priority for the Mayor and City Council.
Groundbreaking for the project must wait until the Newton County Board of Commissioners formally authorizes expenditure of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds later this year. But, the city has already begun clearing city-owned property, while preserving larger trees.
According to the Mayor and City Manager Bob Schwartz, Oxford will work through the non-profit Newton County Tomorrow to engage graduate students from the University of Georgia to plan how the existing Oxford Trail System will connect to the new park. Newton Trails worked with the City of Oxford and Oxford College between 2005 and 2010 to build 1.2 miles of eight-foot-wide concrete-paved trail on city and college-owned property running south to north between Stone Street and West Watson Street. The wooded nature trail also features a popular spur connecting to the historic “Old Church” on Wesley Street.
Speaking of connectivity, another important project for Oxford is a collaboration with the City of Covington and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to install sidewalks along the west side of Emory Street and a new pedestrian bridge over I-20 just west of the existing Emory Street/GA Highway 81 bridge. The project is funded by a GDOT grant secured in 2010 and another grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) obtained in 2012 to complete the project. Roseberry sees the project as a great example of what local governments can accomplish for citizens when working together.
The Mayor sees the pedestrian bridge as a significant enhancement for both cities, giving 950 college students without cars easier, safer access to downtown Covington shops and restaurants, while also providing better connectivity for Covington residents north of I-20. According to City Manager Schwartz, the latest GDOT timeline would have construction starting in September 2017.
With the existing trail, low traffic streets, and pedestrian plazas on the college campus, Oxford is an inviting place for walkers, bicyclists, and those seeking a break from the automobile. Roseberry notes with pride the decision not to include a drive-through service window in the design for the new Oxford City Hall opened in 2010. The Mayor explains his thinking was less about encouraging people to come to City Hall on foot, but rather as a means to avoid the air pollution caused by idling cars waiting in line. A drop-off box accommodates residents who need to leave a payment.
In addition to his responsibilities as Mayor and small business owner of Monroe Power Equipment Company in Covington, Roseberry represents Newton County on the board of the 12-county Northeast Georgia Regional Commission. In June of this year, he was elected by commission members to serve a two-year term as Vice Chairman.
Roseberry says he learns a great deal from other commission members about how counties and cities in the region are responding to citizen needs, economic development challenges and opportunities, and quality of life improvements.
Chances are, when he reports back in a year or two on the new public park and the pedestrian bridge, other cities and counties will be learning a lot from the City of Oxford.
Photo: Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry (right) and City Manager Bob Schwartz walk the site of a planned new city park near the Oxford Historical Cemetery.