Auditor Ron Smith, left, of RHR Smith & Co. in Buxton, presents Oxford selectmen Thursday night with results of the town audit for 2021-22. Listening, from left, are Selectman Floyd Thayer, Vice Chairman Dana Dillingham and Selectman Scott Hunter. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

OXFORD — Selectmen were advised Thursday night to look at sewer rates because the wastewater department has an operating deficit of about $1 million.

In presenting the audit for 2021-22, Ron Smith of RHR & Co. in Buxton said the town’s biggest financial concern should be its enterprise fund for the wastewater department, which operates the treatment plant on Route 121.

“It shows an operating deficit of about $1 million,” he said. “You’ve taken in about $220,000, which doesn’t even cover operations. It’s time to take a look at your rates.”

He said it’s “definitely time to look at your rates for options on making this thing more self-supporting.”

Smith said there federal funds are available for community infrastructure projects, and the town should work on plans for grant applications.

“There is money there … designed exclusively for this,” he said. “It needs to be done with a combination that includes rates. To be considered for help the town needs to present its own solutions, which includes looking at rates.”


Smith provided highlights of the audit, recommending that $2.3 million be transferred from the general fund balance account to the fund balance reserve account, which has $1.6 million.

He said combined with available funds in other municipal accounts, the reserve account potential stands at $4.8 million. He credited strong revenues from Oxford Casino post-pandemic and the town’s careful fiscal management as the main reasons for the surplus.

After his presentation, the board turned to items on its capital improvements list. At its last meeting, selectmen authorized Town Manager Adam Garland to seek bids for repairing and reclaiming Whittemore and Number Six roads. On Thursday,  they asked him to request bids to shim and overlay Pottle Road.

Garland said he recommended tapping $60,000 from the fund balance reserve account for a new police cruiser/pickup and $38,700 for assessing software upgrades. He also said putting money aside to help pay for a new ladder truck for the Fire Department is important. The Transfer Station needs a new baler and a solution is needed for a tax assessor position, he said.

In other business, Transfer Station Manager Ed Knightly reported that the cost of chipping oversized brush and slash waste has overdrafted the budget about $1,200. He requested a $5 per ton increase for haulers bringing in larger trees and blowdowns.

Selectmen approved his request. Typical brush waste will continue to be free.


Knightly noted that Oxford’s overall recycling rate is at 52%; the state advises a rate of at least 50%.

During public comment, resident Carol Kane requested that the town start a dialogue with the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy in Norway. Kane said Paris, Otisfield and Norway have been awarded grants for energy improvements, audits and infrastructure.

She said CEBE has reached out to the town about applying for available grants and various initiatives that will save Oxford money over time.

“The only place to charge electric cars in Oxford is at the casino,” Kane said.

There are other projects, including weatherizations, energy efficiency updates, or audits that CEBE can help Oxford with, she said.

Maine School Administrative District 17 authorized a similar arrangement earlier this month to work with CEBE on climate and cost-saving projects.

Kane provided Garland with contact information for the planners at the CEBE office to start the process.

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