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Board Invites Public To Discuss Conference Center Fate Dec. 16

Mayor Patterson and the Board of Aldermen met to discuss issues on Dec. 5.

The Board of Aldermen, city officials and Mayor Pat Patterson met today in a special meeting to discuss pressing issues and schedule a public hearing on the future of the Oxford Conference Center for Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at City Hall.

Ward 1 Alderman Jay Hughes announced that citizens concerned with the future planning or use of the Oxford Conference Center should attend and take advantage of the opportunity for public comment.

The Board and mayor originally planned a public meeting and planning session on the Center’s future for January but unanimously agreed to move up the meeting to Dec. 16. The reason cited by Alderman Hughes is the “overabundance of misinformation and rumors circulating.”

In an interview Tuesday with HottyToddy.com, Mayor Patterson stressed that the current business environment makes continued operation of the Conference Center an untenable position for the city. “It isn’t working anymore,” he said. “God didn’t wire me to sit here and watch the city lose money this way.”

How much money? About $350,000 annually, according to multiple sources, with eight years left on the bond term. The original bond offering (since refinanced) that funded Conference Center construction in 2002 was about $6 million. The city continues to pay off the bond with interest at the rate of about $380,000 annually.

But that’s only part of the overall expense tied up in the Conference Center. The city subsidizes the operation’s costs to the tune of an additional $350,000 a year.

It’s that money that Mayor Patterson believes may best be re-directed to more effectively serve taxpayers. “There’s many possibilities to use the funds that would be saved on the Conference Center,” Mayor Patterson said. “Increased city parking, road improvements, and Activities Center and Police Department upgrades are just a few of the possibilities.”

One possibility that the mayor and several aldermen confirmed with HottyToddy.com is moving the Police Department to the Conference Center site.

Health Insurance Changes for City Employees

In other business, the Board passed a resolution to accept new health insurance coverage for city employees. This will presumably increase the City’s cost by about $300,000 per year. However, the most controversial issue concerns city employees. For the first time, city employees will pay $20 a month for their health insurance. City employees have always had a $1000 deductible, but now they will be required to pay co-pays.

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