Wellness Center

The main entrance of Norman’s new Senior Wellness Center is shown in this artist rendering.

The Norman City Council received an update on several quality of life projects, storm damage and the outlook for construction this year amid rising costs for materials.

Ahead of future park improvement projects, residents will see construction begin on the proposed Senior Wellness Center and the Indoor Aquatics and Multi-Sport Center.

Financial Services Director Anthony Francisco said Tuesday night that the two projects are “nearing the starting line of dirt flying and construction starting.”

The senior center will be located at the southeast corner of N. Findlay Avenue and E. Rich Street, and is part of the voter-approved Norman Forward Sales Tax.

“We’re in the final design phases and we’re about to have the contractor and operator chosen and on board,” Francisco said. “We’re about to start construction in this calendar year.”

Contributions from the Young Family Foundation have helped make the aquatics and sports center a reality, The Transcript has reported. The city agreed to let the foundation have the naming rights and agreed to ensure that there will be eight basketball courts.

“The Young Family Athletic Center … will be the crown jewel of the Norman Parks system,” Francisco said. “We’re having meetings on a regular basis with the design team, engineers and representatives of the Young family, who has contributed greatly to this project both from the financial standpoint and design standpoint.”

Outgoing Ward 1 Kate Bierman asked Francisco if he expected significant cost increases or delays with the rising price of construction materials. As previously reported in The Transcript, the price of lumber alone is 180% higher this year, leading home and commercial developers to reach for alternative materials.

Francisco said delaying the projects would not solve the problem.

“We are hearing that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better,” he said. “We’re trying to get our projects underway, to bid with those guaranteed maximum prices in our construction agreements. We’re trying to get that locked in as quick as we can so it doesn’t get way out of hand.”

City Manager Darrel Pyle said every effort is being made to ensure the city “does not blow budgets,” including leveraging available and more affordable materials.

The city is also leveraging dollars when it comes to its fleet of more than 950 vehicles and related equipment. Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said the need outpaces the funding for vehicles, so the much of the fleet is “well beyond its life.”

Only 33 vehicles will be replaced, while the city needs to turn over 120, O’Leary said.

“There is just not enough dollars to go around,” he said. “Instead of replacing them, we’re repairing them and keeping them running as long as we can.”

Hail storm damage was another matter.

“Most of our fleet lives outside, uncovered,” Pyle said. “We had 28 patrol vehicles with broken windows and lots of little dents. Some of the pickups and heavier equipment is a little sturdier built and probably less noticeable on a garbage truck.”

Windshields are on backorder through August, he said.

“(It’s) our desire to hold off until the general public gets into the body shops — we’ve got enough dinged-up vehicles to flood every body shop in the metro,” Pyle said.

Ward 6 Elizabeth Foreman asked if purchasing vehicles is more cost effective than leasing. Pyle said he is in talks with Enterprise Fleet, and hopes to see a proposal this summer after an inspection of the fleet.

Road bond projects also continue throughout the city, including some that have been planned for several years.

The I-35 and Robinson Street widening began April 2021, and is expected to be completed by December 2021. The Porter Avenue and Acres Street intersection, began in November 2020, will be finished by August 2021.

Improvements to James Garner Avenue, from Acres Street to Flood Avenue, will begin November 2021 and be completed 12 months later. Jenkins Avenue, including Constitution Street east to Classen Boulevard, will widen to a four-lane road, but will not go out for bid until October 2022.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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