What started out as an opportunity for the Oxford Council Post 1 candidates Amma Gaither and Frank Davis to distinguish themselves in the eyes of their voters at a Tuesday night forum quickly turned into a platform for residents in Oxford to voice their objection to plans to develop the Covington Municipal Airport.
Hosted by the Newton County NAACP and moderated by Oxford resident Claude Sitton, the forum, held in the Oxford Community Room, was attended by approximately 25 residents.
Incumbent Gaither, who is running for a second four-year term on the council, emphasized her participation in street cleaning projects and her position as chairperson of the Oxford Historical Cemetery Society where she said she has worked to have a memorial dedicated to early black residents of Oxford buried in the cemetery.
Gaither, who was the quieter of the two candidates Tuesday night, responded to what she said were questions on why she doesn't speak often at council meetings.
"Just because I don't say much does not mean I don't know much," Gaither said. "It means I'm listening."
Davis emphasized his position as chairperson of the Oxford Planning Commission for the past four years as well as his membership on the Historical Cemetery Society. Davis said he would also work to bring a Homestead Tax Exemption to homeowners in the city if he were elected.
Virgil Eady, who has been nominated to take Mayor Elect Jerry Roseberry's seat on the council, asked the candidates what they would do to guard against the further encroachment of land uses (distasteful in the eyes of many Oxford residents) by the city of Covington on Oxford's borders.
"We're not a three-legged stepchild over here," Eady said.
Davis responded by suggesting that Oxford annex land on its borders as a means of keeping certain land uses at bay.
"I don't think Covington should be able to do whatever they want to on our borders," Davis said.
Gaither said she was against the development of Covington's airport for "safety reasons."
Asked by Oxford resident Vivian Harris what could be done to close the Lafarge Aggregate asphalt plant which lies just outside the city's boundaries Davis answered not much.
"We really have no control over it," Davis said. "It's in the county, and they do what they jolly well please over there."
Both candidates said they were in favor of moving forward with plans to build a new city hall and a municipal courtroom. Both candidates said they were in favor of a very limited form of development in the form of a town center. Neither candidate is in favor of large-scale commercial development in the town.
When asked how they would pay for the new municipal buildings, Davis said the city might have to look at raising its mileage rate. Gaither said she had no suggestions for how the city could increase its revenue stream but added that she was against raising the city's mileage rate.
Responding to another question on how they would go about enforcing the city's ordinances as it relates to public nuisances, Davis responded that he would use the city's four-person police department to issue tickets to residences with junk cars on their property. Gaither said she was in favor of employing a part-time code enforcement officer to issue citations.
Davis and Gaither came in first and second place respectively in the Oxford Council Post 1 three-way race on Nov. 7. Oxford resident Kelly Ellis came in third race. Because no candidate garnered 51 percent of the vote, a runoff election must be held between the two top candidates.
The date of Gaither and Davis's runoff election is Dec. 4. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Community Room, adjacent to the Volunteer Fire Department on Emory Street.