Shawnee City Commissioners did business in front of a full house, hearing from several residents Monday as they addressed the annual contract review committee's recommendations for funding certain agencies. Three of the agencies used to receiving city dollars in years past were startled to learn the money train might leave the station without them.

Shawnee City Commissioners did business in front of a full house, hearing from several residents Monday as they addressed the annual contract review committee's recommendations for funding certain agencies. Three of the agencies used to receiving city dollars in years past were startled to learn the money train might leave the station without them.

The Historical Shawnee Alliance (HSA), the Shawnee Senior Center and Visit Shawnee Inc. (VSI) were each denied a recommendation this year, leaving many area residents shocked, confused or upset and concerned about the future of their programs.

Commissioners have not yet made a final determination on what level of funding help the city will offer those agencies next year, if any.

Mayor Richard Finley said the commission's vote to side with the Contract Review Committee's recommendations to not renew a contract with each of those agencies merely means they are now going to be negotiated.

It only means the board is supporting denial of the contracts as they are written right now, he said.

“In my mind, this is just the beginning of negotiations,” he said.

Senior Center

The biggest potential for upheaval, it seems, pertains to the Shawnee Senior Center. Not only is the nearly $117,000 contract to undergo a new assessment, operation of the facility could be changing hands.

At a special Senior Center board meeting was called last week, where at least 60 residents gathered to try to find answers and air concerns, Director of Operations James Bryce said it was possible the city would choose to assume responsibilities at the center.

“If the city does decide to take over operation of the center, that wouldn't begin until July 1,” Bryce said. “Even if it does, many may not even notice a change.”

Though Bryce appears to mean that general operation might not change much, reportedly the faces of the staff would.

According to Facebook, city staff appears to be anticipating exactly that — oversight of future operations at the senior center.

“The City of Shawnee will be taking over that program since a majority of the program is funded by the City of Shawnee,” an April 25 City of Shawnee Oklahoma Municipal Government Facebook post reads. “We are not doing away with the Senior Center. The City intends to reorganize and update the services provided and introduce new programs.”

Senior Center Director Kate Joyce has said her staff of three full-time employees and five part-timers would have to go if city employees take over operation.

The city's (fiscal year and) current contract with the senior center ends June 30, at which point meals and other programs at the center could be in jeopardy.

Facade grants

HSA President Linda Agee said the $16,000 requested funding — if it's cut — will mean no facade grants to offer next year.

“I don't know who is on the review committee, but I'm not sure they understand the positive impact this program has had on Shawnee in the past,” she said. “It is an incentive that has had a tremendous return on investment in the downtown area.”

For every dollar invested by the city, she said the building and business owners have invested several times that amount.

She brought packets to the board meeting that show just what the facade grant program has been doing for downtown. According to Agee's figures, six recent matching grants awarded at $4,000 each ($24,000 total grant money) have yielded nearly $100,000 in facade investments by building owners downtown.

Visit Shawnee Inc.

Visit Shawnee Inc. has been operating with 94 percent of hotel taxes collected until now. The board could decide to provide another amount or none at all. It is unclear where the program stands at this point, especially since no one has publicly come forward to voice opposition.

What now?

The three other agencies on Monday's agenda did obtain approval for contract renewal. They are Shawnee Forward (for $286,000); Safe Events For Families (up to $63,000); and Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency/Central Oklahoma Transit System (for $68,000).

No date has been named for addressing the contracts; watch for updates as Shawnee City Commissioners decide action on funding pertaining to the agencies in question.