As uncertainty continues to surround the pursuit of an operating partner for Oklahoma City's first MAPS 3 senior health and wellness centers, some momentum is growing to study whether city residents would be better served with two large centers instead of four small ones.
Not everyone on the Oklahoma City Council is convinced voters will be prepared to accept anything different from what they were originally promised, which is an issue that has already cropped up as MAPS 3 projects begin to move into construction phases.
The council's approval Tuesday of a minor architectural contract related to the senior centers sparked a conversation about how many the city needs.
Some council members and other civic leaders wondered if more investment should be poured into two larger centers to best meet the needs of local residents.
“There's no evidence-based reason why you would need to do four senior wellness centers as opposed to two,” Councilman Ed Shadid said in beginning the discussion. “There's no study or evidence that would advocate four $12.5 million centers as opposed to two $25 million centers.”
Two or four?
The MAPS 3 Citizen Advisory Board's senior health and wellness center subcommittee has struggled to find an operating partner for the first center, rejecting the only two bids that were generated by its first request for proposals.
Since then, the committee has started to produce a second request that is more specific in some areas and more flexible in others.
Part of the discussion has centered on the possibility it might be easier to entice operating partners if they had a larger facility to provide a wider range of services.
But the campaign led by city officials to persuade voters to support MAPS 3 included a plan for four senior centers.
“When we think back to how we got to that, we just kind of pulled those numbers out of the air,” Councilman Pete White said. “I can see two of them, both of them located on city-owned property in two separate quadrants that have very high need based on the health outcomes reports that we have.”
The subcommittee continues to work on the second request for proposals, and at least for now it doesn't specifically mention the possibility of building fewer than four centers over time.
Words of caution
Councilman Larry McAtee spoke up to remind his colleagues about the indication to voters that four centers would be built, warning that the council shouldn't openly debate the possibility of having only two centers unless it becomes a “last resort.”
“I think it's premature to render any comments that we should go this way or that way until we get the information in, because I think most of our citizens are expecting the four centers to be spread around the city,” he said.
The issue is reminiscent of the recent revelation that the city won't be able to afford the full 70 miles of sidewalks promised under MAPS 3, and in fact will build less than half with the MAPS money, even based on the most optimistic cost projections.
The senior center subcommittee is expected to finalize the second request for proposals as early as next month.
It would then go to the full MAPS 3 Citizen Advisory Board, and eventually the city council for final approval.