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Oklahoma City-County Health department drops senior center proposal

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he's confident voters still will get the health and wellness services they were promised when they approved MAPS 3 senior and wellness centers.
by William Crum Modified: November 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: November 4, 2013

Creating a healthy city is one of Mick Cornett's passions.

So the latest blow to the voter-approved MAPS 3 senior health and wellness centers, one of the mayor's signature programs, would seem to be a setback.

Not so, Cornett said after the Oklahoma City-County Health Department withdrew its proposal to open a senior center in one of the city's least healthy neighborhoods.

“You know, almost every MAPS project has traditionally had a little bit of controversy, and it almost always subsides once the project gets opened,” the mayor said.

The health department's withdrawal leaves the city weighing proposals for just two of the senior centers promised to MAPS 3 voters four years ago.

The idea was popular with voters, who were told they could expect four or five senior centers at a total cost of about $50 million.

A central feature of the centers will be swimming pools and warm water therapy pools to sooth aching joints.

Social activities, medical services and fitness classes will be offered, with the mix based on needs and desires of seniors who use them.

Dropping out

Public health officials declined to say why they withdrew, but Ward 7 Councilman John A. Pettis Jr. had criticized their chosen location.

Pettis contended the site, at the Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus on NE 63 near Interstate 35, was too far from most residents' homes.

At a council workshop in September, Pettis said that the health department was unwilling to open a senior center at an inner-city site preferred by Ward 7 residents.

His opposition to NE 63, he said, was “nonnegotiable.”

Pettis later said he could work with the health department, but Cornett said Pettis “wants another round at trying to get a different location.”

“It seemed like they're fine with that, and I think under the circumstances, we don't have to hurry it,” Cornett said. “But I wish we were under construction now on a northeast facility.”

Delays persist

Council members were told in September that money to build the first MAPS 3 senior center was waiting to be spent.

As of Aug. 31, only $239,000 had been spent on the senior health and wellness centers, the least of any of the eight MAPS 3 projects.

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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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