Oxford to continue managing conference center

town_oxford_greenBy Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – After nearly a year of exploring ways to spare the city a roughly $350,000 operating deficit from the Oxford Conference Center, officials announced the 9-year-old facility will remain under city management.

“This started last summer when we were concerned about the budget deficits,” Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said Tuesday. The building contains a 282-seat auditorium, over 10,000 square feet of configurable exhibit and meeting space, catering and industrial kitchens, an executive board room and a business services center.

With columns and brickwork that reflect something of the Greek Revival architecture seen throughout Oxford and the University of Mississippi campus, it also offers an outdoor terrace that lends itself to reunions, receptions and other social occasions.

Among the center’s identified shortcomings are its lack of a loading dock and ceiling heights that will not accommodate some common uses of exhibit space.

Over the course of the past year, city officials and department heads kicked around a host of ideas, from converting the center into a new police station to leasing it to a private management entity or even closing it outright.

“After looking at (requests for proposals), it was not what we thought was in the best interests of the city,” said Alderman John Morgan, who was on the study committee. “More than anything, we thought (facility director) Hollis (Green) and his crew could run it best for the city.”

As for the operating deficit, Morgan said, “There are certain things you just have to do to give back to the city.”

Alderman Robyn Tannehill endorsed the conclusion.

“As a board, our job is to ask the best way to run it,” she said. “I think y’all answered that.”

“I think y’all have made a wise decision,” echoed Alderman Ulysses Howell.

Green deflected several comments about his work toward his staff.

“When you compliment me, you really compliment them,” he said. “The worker bees are the ones who really deserve the credit.”

Green noted that the deficit that triggered the study is already less of an issue.

“This fiscal year that we will end Sept. 30 will be clearly, head and shoulders, the best fiscal year we’ve ever had,” he said.

errol.castens@journalinc.com