OXFORD — A new Marriott hotel is in the works near Leon Smith Parkway, though details are few.
RAM Hospitality, a company founded by two brothers from Opelika, owns a swath of brand-name hotels across Alabama and Georgia, including Hilton, Best Western, Holiday Inn and Candlewood Suites. Durings its Tuesday night meeting, the City Council approved an easement for the company to probe for a spot to install utility lines.
Council members adjourned from the meeting directly to an executive session certified by city attorney Ron Allen to discuss a lease, and were unavailable to answer questions about the hotel after the meeting.
However, the Calhoun County Geographic Information System shows a property owned by RAM Hospitality just west of the Oxford Commons, the location of Publix and a variety of retailers and restaurants, and the company’s website, ramhotels.com, advertises an incoming TownePlace Suites by Marriott location.
“Spacious suites with full kitchens. Complimentary hot breakfast. Free Wi-Fi. We could go on and on,” reads a blurb on the site. The page states a 2021 date for the hotel’s opening, though city leaders didn’t discuss a timeline during the council meeting.
“All they’re asking for is permission to dig where they’re going to put a sewer line and water line,” said Fred Denney, city project manager. The company will ensure that no obstructions block the intended path for the utilities, he said. Afterward, the soil will be replaced and excavated again when work is ready to begin.
“They’re making sure there’s no problem before getting started and investing a bunch of money,” Denney explained.
A city representative said more information about the hotel is forthcoming.
County radio upgrades require city support
During its pre-meeting work session, the council heard from city fire Chief Gary Sparks about a countywide meeting to be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the city Civic Center. Municipal and county leaders will discuss the cost of upgrading the radio system used by all cities and the county, which is required to keep the service functioning. The cost began at about $7.3 million, though negotiations with Motorola had brought the price down below $7 million, Sparks said.
Still, the service upgrade would require the whole county to pitch in. Sparks said that Oxford is the second-biggest user of the system, only behind the county, totaling together about 54 percent of radio usage.
The benefit to the entire county is clear, he said.
“If we lose the radio system, we lose our ability to talk to each other,” Sparks warned. The system had been integral in a unified response to the 2018 tornado in Jacksonville, he explained, and the one this year in Ohatchee and Wellington. Only last week, it had allowed police, fire and emergency medical services to coordinate a response to a police standoff in Weaver.
“We’ve got to do an upgrade on the system, or the system is going to die,” Sparks said.
The council agreed to offer a verbal agreement that the city would support the system upgrade, which would allow Sparks to report Oxford’s willingness. Both Sparks and Allen, the city attorney, said the approval was non-binding.
Leon Smith Parkway widening closer, Choccolocco Park exit denied
The council heard from Keith Strickland, a project manager for engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood, that the Alabama Department of Transportation has approved permission to advertise bidding for the Leon Smith Parkway road-widening project.
Strickland said he hoped to place the advertisements later this month, which will begin the bidding process. His goal is to have bidding finished before Labor Day, he said.
In road-related business, the council also decided against a proposed back exit to Choccolocco Park that would take visitors near or into the Sherwood Forest subdivision, rather than onto Leon Smith Parkway.
Councilman Mike Henderson reasoned that the road, which the council had discussed with CDG Engineering project managers in a prior meeting, would have little or no effect on traffic from large events. Many of the people attending tournaments like the Ohio Valley Conference, which the park hosts, would probably not be city residents, he said, and would simply head back to the parkway and their hotels.
“I would rather see the money spent on an exit from the Exchange over by Sam’s,” Henderson said.
Councilwoman Charlotte Hubbard agreed with Henderson’s assessment of the road’s value, and said she would prefer an exit from the Exchange to get drivers back to U.S. 431.
However, the city will still task CDG with evaluating a solution to traffic at the park entrance.
During its meeting, the council also:
— Approved an ordinance rezoning of property on Oak Street, McKibbon Street and Ross Street fro Residential District (R-1) to Institutional District (INST), and another ordinance rezoning 1823 and 1825 US. 78 E. from Central Business District (CBD) to General Business District (GB).
— Approved subdivision regulations adopted by the Oxford Planning Commission, creating a standardized set of rules for developers.
— Authorized an appropriation up to $800 for a “Welcome to Oxford” mural at 520 Main Street.
— Approved a one-time holiday on July 2, a recognition of Juneteenth, which most local governing bodies were unable to accommodate this year due to the holiday’s federal and state adoption shortly before the June 18 date on which it was recognized this year.
— Had a visit from the Oxford 6U All-Star Baseball Team, youngsters who won a state championship at this year’s Dixie Youth State Tournament in Cottonwood. A proclamation was issued congratulating the team, the members of which had assembled before the council in their black and yellow city colors.