Senior Center Plan Wins Council Approval

I'm proud of our council for coming together last night to support a promising solution for a new standalone senior center, an issue that council has discussed for years. Looking forward to ensuring the next steps happen with all due haste so we can continue moving forward towards the 21st century center our seniors deserve.

“The Norman City Council has unanimously approved a plan to use $8.75 million in University North Park TIF funds to build a standalone senior and cultural center on recently acquired land near the YMCA.

The senior center has long been an elusive accomplishment for the city. Despite the fact that it was a part of the Norman Forward quality of life package, there was never a funding mechanism in place. That is, until Tuesday night, when a rule-of-three proposal put forward last week by council members Kate Bierman, Aleisha Karjala, Bill Hickman and Sereta Wilson was amended and passed after 10 p.m. at city hall.

There’s a timeline in place, too.

Hickman’s amendment, which called for a removal of some language and the addition of historical context related to the seniors’ struggle to see a new center realized, also included an April 10 deadline for the University North Park TIF taxing jurisdictions to make a recommendation on the resolution, barring any good cause as to why they cannot meet or render a recommendation. Hickman said the goal was not to alienate the city’s TIF partners but to move the resolution forward with concrete goals.

“The date of April 10 is not cast in stone,” Hickman said. “Good cause simply means there’s a good reason, not just kicking the can down the road but that we’re working together in good faith to get this resolved.”

Mayor Lynne Miller said there are many steps remaining, but after a long night that included some tense disagreement over the use of the rule-of-three and other procedural issues, Miller said Tuesday night was a momentous step forward.

“Everybody up here on this dais has been really concerned about this and done any number of things over the last two years," she said. "I am hopeful that we can take care of it in an expeditious manner and we can get you all in a center that Norman can be proud of."

Despite the long and winding road, the council and members of the public expressed excitement about the future. Hickman said it was a great moment for Norman’s seniors, but it may have been an even more important moment for Norman and the public trust in city government.

“This is a matter of public trust,” he said. “From the first time I was elected in council, at my first meeting with the city manager in May of 2016, before I was even sworn in, I expressed to him then that one of the things I’ve heard from people … was that they didn’t trust this government. There was a lot of suspicion and concern. And that’s troubling. This is a chance, I truly believe, to start rebuilding that trust.”

21st Century Senior Association board chairman Richard Bailey thanked the council and praised the decision on the proposal, which has drawn support from the group.”