6. New Airline Comes to Oxford Southern Airways Express announced at a press conference June 12 that air service would be available to and from University-Oxford Airport beginning June 20.The planes seat nine comfortably, and the airline provides passengers with iPads and Bose headphones during flights. Stan Little, chairman and CEO for Southern Airways Express, made the formal announcement.
“Frankly, you’re going to be able to fly out of here for cheaper than it would be for you to drive to Memphis and park, much less buy an airline ticket,” Little said. “Virtually any day of the week you’re going to have a flight from Oxford into Destin or Panama City Beach.”
Little added that no seat to or from Oxford will ever cost more than $249.
According to a press release, passengers will not be charged with baggage or parking fees. Year-round destinations include Destin, Fla., and New Orleans. Panama City begins as a seasonal destination. Other possible future destinations to and from Oxford mentioned include Nashville, Jackson, Gulfport and Atlanta.
According to Little, football weekends should see near-constant traffic. As for away games, week three at The University of Texas has been drawing attention from the public. Little said Southern Airways Express is working on a flight to Austin, Texas, for that game.
“I think from the response we’ve gotten about that we’re going to need a bigger aircraft for that one,” Little said to a chorus of laughter from those in attendance.
Oxford will also have the only red-eye flight in the Southern Airways Express network. The flight leaves Oxford late Sunday night and arrives in the early morning hours in Destin. Southern Airways Express refers to the fare options for that flight as the “Archie Manning Special,” which will cost $18, and the “Chucky Mullins,” which will cost $38 in tribute to the former Ole Miss Rebel football players.
7. Oxford expects population increase over next decade
According to the numbers provided by the Oxford Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette County has grown from 40,007 residents in 2002, to 49,433 residents in 2012.
Tim Akers, Oxford City Planner, said most of that population increase can be attributed to the annexation of new land, which brought an additional 5,000 residents. From 2002 to 2006, Lafayette County saw only a total population increase of 1,000 residents. However, from 2007 to 2012 after the additional land was acquired, the population growth percentage was 9.8 percent, good for an average 1,577 residents per year.
“Business seems to have an upward trend as the city grows,” said Richard Lowe, manager of Rebel Bookstore. “Our store is half textbooks and that’s from the student population, so we don’t have a ton of growth, but there is definitely a progression.”
According to the city’s land use plan, Oxford is projecting an increase in population from 21,173 in the year 2000 to approximately 44,012 in 2020. This projection shows an increase of over 50 percent, but these assume the trends of the city’s use of existing land, housing development and existing and future zoning will stay the same.
Aside from the land acquisition in 2007, Oxford ranks as the nation’s second-best small town according to livability.com, citing its “Hollywood of the South” atmosphere and stating it is a place where “intellectual and leisure pursuits often intertwine.”
On top of the positive press, the Chamber of Commerce is projecting a 19.9 percent increase in jobs over the next 10 years, which would be a benefit to a city whose unemployment rate consistently stays below the national average. The city has been able to withstand the growth so far, and, according to Akers, Oxford is prepared to deal with continued growth.
“The city currently has the infrastructure capacity and/or financial ability to serve this growth,” Akers said. “(For the future) the city also has in place a comprehensive plan and related Land Development Code to manage future growth.”The full land use plan can be read at http://oxfordms.net/departments/planning-menu/category/land-use-plan.html.
8. Mississippi public universities plan tuition increases
Tuition at Mississippi’s eight public universities will increase by an average of more than 6 percent this fall, an amount universities say is needed to make up for the lingering effectsof state aid cuts during the recession.State College Board figures show the average price for two semesters of full-time tuition and fees will rise by an average of $381, putting it at $6,329. The College Board voted in spring 2012 on a two-year tuition plan and didn’t vote on the subject this year.
Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said schools were given opportunities to change plans this spring, but none chose to.
“We recognize that it places a burden on students, and we are doing everything we can to minimize increases,” Bounds said. In November, the board approved a $50-a-semester facilities fee for students at Mississippi State University and The University of Mississippi, causing an 8.1 percent tuition increase at MSU and a 7.6 percent increase at Ole Miss.
Increasing college costs are far outstripping stagnant family incomes, in-state tuition having gone up 57 percent since the fall of 2004 while household incomes have been flat in Mississippi. It now takes about 16 percent of the typical Mississippi family’s income to pay for one year of college at astate university, not counting room, board or other costs.
Universities say they need more money to increase faculty salaries, cover operation costs and make up for cuts to state aid during the recession. Both Ole Miss and MSU gave raises to employees at the start of the budget year. Ole Miss set aside a pool of $4 million to be distributed for raises, but these are not across the board.
9. Lafayette County Library named literary landmark United for Libraries named the Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library a literary landmark in honor of Oxford’s own Larry Brown in July.
Brown is a two-time winner of the Southern Book Award for fiction, winner of the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters for fiction.”His notable works include “Dirty Work,” “Joe,” “Father and Son” and “A Miracle of Catfish.” The Lafayette County & Oxford Public Library was established in 1930, and before it relocated down University Avenue, Brown made frequent visits to its location on the Square to better his reading and writing skills.
“When the library was on Madison Avenue up off the Square, he (Larry Brown) would come up there and take books to the fire station and read,” said head librarian Laura Beth Walker. “He came here and checked out books learning how to write, so he was a big presence in the library.”
The library applied in May, but Walker, along with the help of Square Books owner Richard Howorth, had been working on gathering all necessary information for a few months. Walker and the rest of the staff found out two weeks after applying.
In order for a location to be considered a literary landmark, it takes a community effort, according to Sally Gardner Reed, executive director of United for Libraries.
“A group of citizens recognizes that somebody who was of significant literary merit living in the community, or somehowattached to that community, and then they put together an application to us,” Reed said. “Based on the significance of that location and the significance of that author we determine whether or not that person should be so honored.”
10. Oxford changes alcohol ordinances
The Board of Aldermen met at city hall July 23 for the second time in July with a request on the agenda from local attorney Dee Hobbs to revise the city ordinance to allow the sale of cold beer and wine.
Hobbs represented Ben Craddock, a former Ole Miss football player who is currently the president of Craddock Oil Company and owner of the Exxon Station on Highway 6 West in Oxford. Craddock was confident he could get the laws changed so he built the gas station five months ago with all the necessary coolers and equipment to serve cold beer.
The board then had a meeting August 20 to vote on the matter, voting in 6-1 in favor of changing the current laws. Hobbs said this is a win for the city of Oxford as well as its business owners.
“It’s 2013 – it’s time to get this behind Oxford, so we can move on to bigger and better things,” Hobbs said. “One of the two biggest alcohol distributors in the area has told me that this will increase every convenience store and every grocery store’s beer sales by 10-15 percent.”
Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson does not feel this ordinance hurts the city as long as its citizens act responsible. But the new ordinance could bring up other alcohol related issues.
“There is going to be a big battle about extended bar hours and I am opposed to that,” Patterson said. “I think that does affect the character of the town. But I don’t think because of cold beer, the sky is going to fall.”