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Oklahoma City Council members discuss MAPS 3 senior centers

In a workshop led by former KOCO-TV anchor Jennifer Eve, Oklahoma City's city council gave city staff some guidance on negotiating deals with potential partners.
by William Crum Published: September 18, 2013

MAPS 3 voters agreed in 2009 that Oklahoma City should build senior health and wellness centers as part of the 10-year, $777 million construction program.

Figuring out what a senior health and wellness center should look like and finding suitable operating partners has been characterized by false starts and differences of opinion.

With money to build the first center ready to be spent and three proposals on the table, the city council met Tuesday in a workshop to seek consensus on how the city should move forward.

Q: What are we talking about here?

A: The city plans to spend about $52 million from the 1-cent MAPS 3 sales tax on four senior health and wellness centers. The focus would be on fitness, health care and social activities. Emphasis could shift — one center could be strong on fitness, another on health care.

Seniors themselves likely will shape their center's atmosphere and activities, said Mayor Mick Cornett: “Once you open this, the seniors take over.”

Q: How will it work?

A: The city would build the centers, and partners would run them. Proposals have been made by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department; NorthCare, a nonprofit with a strong emphasis on mental health services; and Healthy Living Inc., an affiliate of Putnam City Baptist Church.

Q: What are the sources of contention?

A: Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan worries about “mission creep” — saying centers should be seen as “wellness centers” rather than health clinics. Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid laments lack of public transit to serve proposed centers in northeast and northwest Oklahoma City.

All three proposed centers, for the moment, would be in north Oklahoma City.

Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis objects — using the word “nonnegotiable” — to the Health Department proposal for a center at its NE 63 campus. Residents prefer Douglass Park on NE 10, he said.

“Everybody seems to have a slightly different understanding of what wellness means,” said Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer.

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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