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Posted: November 8, 2011 11:45 p.m.

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Oxford passes homestead exemption

Councilors talk future issues

While other Newton cities decided key competitive races, all four of Oxford's candidates won their seats in unopposed races Tuesday.

The only issue to be decided on the ballot was whether to approve a $10,000 homestead exemption for city property owners, a referendum that passed 87 for and five against, according to City Clerk Lauran Willis.

The four candidates - Mayor Jerry Roseberry, returning councilors Frank Davis and George Holt and new Councilor Lyn Pace - were asked about their perspective on Oxford's issues in the next year or two.

"The big thing coming up in the immediate future is our water mains," Roseberry said.

Much of Oxford's water infrastructure is between 80 and 90 years old, Roseberry said, and has sprung leaks at various points around town. Davis said the line on Emory Street has broken three times since the road was repaved this summer.

"Most of our lines have been there for years and we planned to change out most of those lines with SPLOST money," Post 2 Councilor Holt said.

Oxford will be allocated about $1.23 million over six years from the 1-percent SPLOST voters approved earlier this year.

Replacement of a line on Cook Road, on the edge of town, could begin within a year to improve water pressure there, Roseberry said. Two others, along Emory Street and Asbury Street, would likely get underway in two to three years.

The City Council has not approved any definite plans or schedule yet for replacing mains in town or on Cook Road.

Some preliminary engineering work has been done already to produce cost estimates.

Leaking lines and mains reduce water pressure to residents nearby and can discolor the water. Roseberry said it also boiled down to a cost issue because Oxford purchases water from the Newton County Water Authority to resell to its citizens.

"The big issue is water loss and cost," he said.

Holt, who is chairman of the City Council's finance committee, said he wanted to maintain Oxford's enviable financial position.

"We're fortunate really because we've had people on the council in the past who looked down the road," Holt said. "We've been very conservative in our spending. We are in much better shape than many of the other cities and we haven't had to consider laying off employees. My goal is to make sure we follow that sound financial position."

Post 1 Councilor Davis said the council may consider privatizing the city's garbage collection service, which could save about $100,000 per year.

Both he and Roseberry said maintaining and upgrading the city's electricity infrastructure is crucial, since the city gets about 60 percent of its revenue from electricity sales.

Post 3 Councilor Pace, who is in his first political foray, said he would take a watch-and-learn approach in the beginning to get a feel for city government.

"I'll be on there for the first year to listen and figure out what people are interested in and seeing what they want to happen in terms of improvement in the Oxford community," Pace said.

As chaplain at Oxford College, Pace said he wanted to maintain and improve on the relationship between the city and the college. Hoyt Oliver, a former college employee, decided not to run for reelection. Pace ran for Oliver's open seat.

"I think it's important that someone continue on in that role," he said.

In the official tally, Roseberry got 81 votes, Davis got 80, Holt got 81 and Pace got 82. There are 873 registered voters in Oxford, Willis said.

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