The Norman Transcript

July 10, 2013

Zoning change makes way for youth group home

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman City Council unanimously approved a full docket of business at Tuesday’s meeting then entered executive session. Missing was any hint of controversy between council members.

The closed-door session involved a consultation with the city attorney on employee group negotiations. Norman has unions for employees in and out of uniform. Which negotiations were under way was not specified.

Among items approved Tuesday night was a zoning change to allow a for-profit agency to operate a group home for disadvantaged and troubled youth. Similar facilities, including Varangon Academy and Alan Couch Center are located nearby.

COYSCO LLC requested the change of the Norman 2025 Land Use and Transportation Plan from Industrial Designation to Office Designation for property at 3530 MacDonnell Drive in the Northridge Industrial Park on Tecumseh Road between 12th Avenue Northwest and Flood Avenue.

The change will allow COYSCO to operate a “staff secure” treatment and counseling facility for adolescents. The Level E Group Home will serve juveniles in Department of Human Services custody, according to city staff notes.

“These youth will be adjudicated as neglected, deprived or in need of treatment to qualify for residence at the facility,” according to staff reports.

Clients will live on-site for a period of seven to nine months depending on progress through the program. Residents will receive counseling and will attend school on-site in partnership with Norman Public Schools.

The facility will be staffed by a director, program coordinator, counselor, cook, medical personnel and house parents on a 24-hour basis, “pursuant to DHS licensing standards,” according to staff reports.

The facility would support as many as 15 beds for male juveniles ages 13-17. The attorney for the applicant reported that parental rights have been terminated and parents do not show up at this facility, so there will be no parking issues.

In other city business, the council also approved the contract with Cooley Construction for the new animal shelter. Terry Tevis, principal architect, said the upgrade provides a substantial increase in capacity and improved holding conditions for the animals. The existing animal shelter will remain open during construction.

Tevis worked with local architect Barrett L. Williamson on the design. Bids were ranked by a committee that found Cooley Construction as the lowest and best.

“We weren’t committed to taking the lowest bid,” Tevis said. “We wanted to take the bid that gave the best value.”

After the bids were open, the owner of Cooley called and said he needed to make two corrections in the bid. Cooley was still the lowest and highest ranked.

Bids came in higher than expected, and $179,000 will be used from the Capital fund balance to make up the difference. City Manager Steve Lewis said there are ample funds in that account, which have been held back for this and other city projects. Lewis said change orders and unexpected costs always come up and the city prepares for that contingency.

“I think this is a prudent move, and I think this is a good resolution to this project,” Lewis said.

Value engineering identified areas for cost savings in the animal shelter.

“Value engineering is never a favorite topic for architects,” Tevis said, but in this case, identified items for reduction can be added later or may not be needed at all. Signage will be reduced, for example, and can easily be added later. Using chain link fencing instead of concrete block is cheaper and allows for ventilation when it’s hot outside, Tevis said.

The council unanimously approved the contract.

Joy Hampton