The Shawnee Senior Center board gathered again for an emergency meeting Tuesday, hoping to get answers and input for constructing a new contract. At the last Shawnee City Commission meeting the Senior Center's submitted contract — along with the Historic Shawnee Alliance (HSA) and Visit Shawnee Inc. (VSI) — failed to achieve renewal on the first round.

The Shawnee Senior Center board gathered again for an emergency meeting Tuesday, hoping to get answers and input for constructing a new contract. At the last Shawnee City Commission meeting the Senior Center's submitted contract — along with the Historic Shawnee Alliance (HSA) and Visit Shawnee Inc. (VSI) — failed to achieve renewal on the first round.

The facility's board spent the morning trying to clarify exactly what it is the city didn't like about the first draft.

Senior Center Director Kate Joyce said multiple attempts to get clear answers from City Hall have proven unfruitful so far.

City of Shawnee Director of Operations James Bryce and Ward 1 Shawnee City Commissioner Ed Bolt were at the meeting, fielding questions and responding as they could, given they both had limited information to offer, they both said.

Bryce also had questions of his own, seeking clarification about figures on the finance statement.

Realizing a stranger would struggle read into the wording what she could, Joyce noted a change in how finances are presented could likely be in order.

“There has to be a better way to do it than this,” Joyce said, referring to the current financial report.

On that topic, she also suggested to the board that, after a discussion with the Avedis Foundation staff, it was brought to her attention that an easy fix could be to hire out the accounting portion of the center's duties.

“We have enough funding in our in-house fundraising account to afford to pay someone,” she said, “it wouldn't even take city money to do it.”

She explained the center's in-house fund is a melting pot of all the dollars raised from various projects, sales and events, such as quilt sales, pop-machine profits and the Blue Jeans Ball, among other things.

That account is used to match grants and buy things the center needs, she said.

Joyce said the city (contract) provides just less than half of the center's budget.

It would appear communication between the senior center and the city has lost some of its strength, breaking down over time.

For instance, it was discovered Tuesday that a monthly director's report Joyce is required to give to city leaders — and does, Bryce confirmed, is not being seen — at least not by Bolt. Discussion of the item was the first Bolt had encountered about it.

Also, apparently a city commission member is supposed to be regularly sitting in on the senior center's board meetings, though a seat reserved for Mayor Richard Finley was empty Tuesday. Joyce said at one time Finley had told her he would appoint someone to be there, and when Bryce starting attending, she thought he was the mayor's chosen appointee — only Bryce is not on the city board, though he is a city department head.

“The last mayor who attended our meetings was Wes Mainord,” she said. Mainord's term as mayor was immediately before Finley's began two years ago.

Bryce also said a rule that the city is to approve potential senior center board members has been on the books for a long time, but stopped for some unknown reason in 2002. Joyce, who didn't even begin her position there until 2005, was surprised at that news, as was her board.

Bryce brought up some policy conflicts between the city's goals and the senior center's regarding how meals and facility access — namely restrooms — are allowed, encouraging unwanted dependence by area vagrants.

The city tries to discourage vagrancy in the area through cutting off free and available services, Bryce said. While the center has a policy to offer those things to any senior who walks through the doors.

“How are we supposed to know if someone is a vagrant or just homeless?” Board member Evelyn Pipkin asked.

It is clear there is much for the two entities to hash out — and a short time to do it without more serious consequences.

Bolt encouraged the board to put together its best proposal — and rapidly, as time is of the essence; the facility's existing contract with the city ends June 30.

What's at stake is not only the nearly $117,000 in requested funding that still has to undergo a new assessment. It has been made known that operation of the facility could potentially change hands.

According to the city's official Facebook page, 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.”

Bryce said if the city does decide to take over operation, that would begin July 1.

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.

The delay in getting their contract renewed has already cost the center money. Joyce said she has already had to return an approved grant from OG&E because the new year's funding is not yet secured. She did add that the center could reapply for that particular grant again later.

Watch for updates.