Oklahoma City receives 4 wellness center proposals

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

by Brian Brus

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – An operating partner for the first of Oklahoma City’s wellness centers under the MAPS 3 tax issue could be decided within the next two months, city officials said.

The four proposals received this month by City Hall were submitted by Valir Health, North Care Mental Health, Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Putnam City Baptist Church. Details of those plans were not immediately available Monday.

The voter-approved penny sales tax, which will be collected from early 2010 through 2017, is projected to total about $777 million for several public works projects, including $52.4 million earmarked for four senior citizen wellness and aquatic centers.

Several organizations expressed interest in operating one of the centers in early 2012, after initial project requirements for the centers were established. But only the local YMCA organization and health department actually filed formal bids. City Council members and the oversight committee agreed to refine requirements and accept another round of proposals, which were due a few weeks ago.

Officials familiar with the process said developers initially were frustrated by the specificity of the project requirements, which included swimming pools and classrooms at each of the full-scale activity centers and left little room for anything else. The MAPS 3 issue that city residents originally supported was vague in its description of what a senior wellness and aquatic center would accomplish other than a general goal of improving health for the community’s aging population. Interested parties said they would need the target market clarified and some sort of subsidy would probably be needed to help operate the building.

“The centers will be outcome-focused venues that promote healthy lifestyles, enhance well-being and support social engagement,” according to the latest revised project overview. “The operating partner will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Senior Wellness Center … (and) assist in the planning and programming of the center.”

The overview suggests several examples of programs and services, such as gymnasiums, walking tracks, warm water therapy, swimming pools, arts programs, social services and chronic disease management support. Retail components such as cafes and gift shops also are possible.

“We’ve had an architect on board for more than a year waiting for a partner agreement,” MAPS 3 Program Manager David Todd said, referring to the Glover Smith Bode agency. “We haven’t even been able to choose sites yet. Part of the latest proposals will tell us where they want to go, so that we’ll know if we need to remodel an existing building or design something new.”

Todd said the oversight committee will schedule interviews soon to determine the best operating partner.