OXFORD – Change is afoot in Oxford, according to recently-elected mayor Trish Stewart.
The councilor of eight years took some time out of a busy season to reflect on 2012 and forecast the coming year.
“People are more excited about where they live,” said Stewart about her fellow residents.
The mayor had a list of developments that took place over the past 12 months.
“We saw natural gas come to our town,” she said. The line was put through to service Oxford Frozen Foods, but others are taking advantage of the opportunity. Town hall is hooked in and she expects the theatre to be a customer soon.
The election of a junior town council was gratifying, said the mayor.
“They have a strong voice,” she said.
The formation of a walking club, the purchase of a new tanker for the fire department and the arrival of a satellite YMCA facility have been welcome changes.
Stewart said the Cumberland YMCA is offering the community’s first licensed daycare.
The coming year offers challenges and opportunities. A new contractor, Faro, will be running the transfer station, and the town has taken the step of hiring their own attendant to monitor the site. Stewart said Oxford needs to improve its recycling and sorting record – tipping fees are too high.
The elementary school property has been sold to a developer who has committed to building 23 to 25 affordable housing units. While there’s lots of employment in Oxford, according to Stewart, high salaries for working people are another matter.
“Wages aren’t that great [for many],” she said.
Affordable housing will be an option for people making $10 to $15 an hour and can’t afford a mortgage.
She hopes the ability buy a home improves for residents. She said its disappointing seeing a home for sale for a long time – perhaps an elderly couple looking to downsize – with no buyer, and she’d like to see new families come into the community.
A number of large community projects are on the radar for 2013. Spring will see ground-breaking on a new fire hall. She said the department has been fundraising for at least 10 years and are nearing the $150,000 they committed to raising as a contribution to the new facility.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” said Stewart.
Council has accepted, in principle, allowing Habitat for Humanity to build up to 25 homes on the old high school site (while being open to other projects being developed on the site, too).
“They see us as being a very close-knit community,” she said.
The goal for this year is to see that first house built.
Another of the mayor’s ambitions is to see the newly-formed trails committee succeed in getting the Trans-Canada Trail through Oxford (the national route stops there). She said the group spearheading the proposed trail are passionate. One potential hurdle, though: finding a way over – or under – the divided highway.
Finally, Stewart wants to hold public meetings to develop a new strategic plan for Oxford. It’s been seven years since that process was last completed, she said.