Say this much about Oxford’s ballyhooed recreation complex: Square foot by square foot, there may not be a pricier one in the entire state.
In a troubling scenario nine years in the making, the city has spent nearly $7 million in construction delay fees, and its City Council this spring OKed a $26.6 million agreement with an Anniston contractor to build the 360-acre facility. It’s still baffling that Oxford residents haven’t given City Hall more flak over the amount of money spent on a project that’s been plagued by mistakes and disagreements for years on end.
Nevertheless, work commenced this week — finally, after delays, after a lawsuit, after much haranguing from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “It can’t move fast enough,” Councilman Mike Henderson told The Star. Expectations are for a spring 2015 completion, but anyone banking on this bothersome project coming in on time may want to adopt a more wait-and-see approach. It’s not that we expect unearthed human remains to again derail it, but you just never know.
Which never-ending project gets finished first: Veterans Memorial Parkway or Oxford’s recreation complex?
Don’t answer that.
We admit, it’s easy to get caught up in the glitz surrounding Oxford’s newest jewel. The only thing it won’t have is a Major League team to play on its baseball field. The complex’s highlight will be two large fields for Oxford High’s teams and a 35-acre lake surrounded by a walking track, but other amenities will be abundant: four additional baseball fields, five softball fields, four soccer fields, batting cages, a track for Oxford High’s track team and additional walking trails.
Oh, and how’s this for a shot across Anniston’s bow — the city is seeking a grant to help pay for biking trails at the complex. We assume there’s enough Bike City Alabama love in Calhoun County to go around.
On paper, Oxford’s complex sounds too good to be true.
But on that same paper is a cautionary tale of a well-funded city that has the means to err and still come out smelling like a rose. No other Calhoun County city could have withstood $7 million in construction delay fees — not financially, not politically, not in public perception. In Anniston, particularly, any mayor and council who spent that much money to essentially allow a project to sit still for months on end wouldn’t have stayed in office. But politics are different in Oxford.
It’s indeed good that earth is being moved at the Oxford site. Oxford taxpayers who’ve funded both the delays and this week’s construction start deserve to see progress at Davis Farm.