May 17, 2021

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Extraordinary healthy

Delays expected on 36th, senior center nears reality | News

The Norman City Council discussed a fee schedule for the proposed Senior Wellness Center during a study session Tuesday night.

The project is part of several quality of life improvements planned and funded by the voter approved half-cent sales tax Norman Forward.

Staff recommended an operator which currently runs a senior wellness center in Oklahoma City, Healthy Living and Fitness Inc.

The rate for membership is expected to be $30 per person or $50 per couple each month , but a sliding scale for those on limited income could place membership as low as $10 a month, City Attorney Kathryn Walker said.

Ward 5 Michael Nash asked what the anticipated membership might be under the operator’s projections.

“What they are projecting in their business plan is 1,100 members the first year, 1,550 members the second year and 2,350 the third year and all the way up to 3,000 by the fifth year,” Walker said.

Only a portion of the members are expected to pay full price, an estimate that the operator projected in its business plan.

“By the fifth year, they show 1,500 regular membership at $30 a month and 1,300 Silver Sneakers, which are $10 a month, and then 200 sliding scale members, which are an average of $10 a month,” Walker noted.

Programming for the center would include group exercise and personal training, art, physical therapy, massage therapy, health screenings and immunizations, to name a few, Walker said. Programs will also depend on community input.

In order to stabilize the project in its first year of operation, the city would pay 100% of utility costs, followed by 60% the second year and 30% the third year, but would cover janitorial and landscaping for the first five years.

The contract is for a five-year term with the possibility of a renewal.

Ward 4 Lee Hall praised the project design for consistency in meeting the requests of seniors through an ad hoc committee. She asked if the committee would continue to guide the process moving forward.

Parks and Recreation Director Jud Foster said the committee is scheduled to review continued design phases.

“They are scheduled to review the different designs sets as they’re finished … the schematic design process, they’ll review that. When the next set is finished, they’ll review that and the construction documents are finished, they’ll review that,” he said. “They’ll participate in the ribbon cutting and that’s the end of their work.”

A groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for fall 2021 and a ribbon cutting for November 2022, he said.

Following the discussion, the council reviewed options for the completion of a road bond project on NW 36th Avenue. The improvement includes 36th from Tecumseh Road to Indian Hills, and includes lane widening from two to four lanes, new traffic signals at 36th and Franklin Road and Indian Hills Road, stormwater, sidewalks and better access to Ruby Grant Park.

Completion of the improvements has been delayed as the city fights to secure an ever-dwindling federal match funding program.

When voters approved the bond 10 years ago, it was with the anticipation of $11.5 million in federal dollars through the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. Due to changing criteria, since 2012 the potential funding shrank to $9.5 and then to $7.5 million. Along with changing qualifiers, more cities are applying for ACOG funds in Oklahoma, city staff said.

“These changes in rules and the process with ACOG and federal funding has really impacted this project negatively,” said Shawn O’Leary, director of public works. “That’s the problem we’re having this year. The project was scheduled for a 2018 construction, so we are now three years behind that schedule.”

The council considered the possibility of using a portion of anticipated American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] funding and a second proposed $3 trillion infrastructure package not yet adopted by Congress. The U.S. Treasury Department has not yet issued guidelines for the use of ARPA, The Transcript previously reported.

“We don’t know the rules on the red tape yet, but that could be a source of funding,” O’Leary said.

Following the meeting, Norman Chamber of Commerce Director Scott Martin said the project should be completed, and the sooner the better, both for public safety and for business development.

“A lot of the land around there (NW 36th) has been platted but not built,” he said. “I think that the private sector has been waiting on this project, for the city to follow through with it.”