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Flower Mound senior center put on hold, again

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Plans for a new senior citizen center in Flower Mound have hit a temporary snag.

At the November 18 TIRZ #1 (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) Board meeting, members voted to deny funding its share of $4.9 million for the $5.6 million budget to build the new Flower Mound Senior Citizen Activity Center (SCAC).

The town’s seniors have been petitioning for a dedicated senior center for two decades.

The most recent push began with a feasibility study funded by the TIRZ board in 2012, which was completed in April 2013. Based on the findings, a 22,387 sq. ft. center is being designed with three multipurpose rooms which can be opened up into a large ballroom space with seating for more than 250 people in a banquet-type arrangement, or can accommodate 500 people in a lecture hall configuration.

The funding for surveying, design and preliminary construction costs approved by the Town Council were funded through the general capital project funds. The total budget for the project is $5.6 million, with funding of $4.9 million being requested from TIRZ.

“One of the most familiar statements used about the town is: ‘Flower Mound is a great place to live, work and play,’” said Denis Toth, past president of Seniors In Motion (SIM). “It’s too bad that the town can’t add: ‘and retire’ to that description. You know, many of the town’s seniors relocated to Flower Mound to be near their children and grandchildren who’ve moved to the area. The town has not supported any senior housing options or developments, nor an activity facility for its seniors.”

A vocal advocate for a permanent senior center is Town Council member Jean Levenick. She moved her own parents from Wisconsin down to Flower Mound several years ago. She has pointed out that in the past, the town focused on children’s needs, such as sports fields, swimming pools and then the CAC (Community Activity Center). She added that the town’s seniors have had three temporary locations and that it’s time for a permanent home.

The Flower Mound seniors group actually got its start under the guidance of 82-year-old Shirley Voirin, for whom the current center space is named. Her daughter had moved to North Texas and she moved to Flower Mound from Minnesota in 1987 to be close. She worked at Lewisville’s senior center for five years before retiring; and deciding Flower Mound needed a senior center, too.

In 2004, former Mayor Jody Smith and Voirin hosted a senior get-together at Smith’s home to form a formal senior group with its own center.

A year later, Seniors in Motion’s initial 30 members met at the First Congregational Church on Cross Timbers Road. Under the town’s Park and Recreation Department, the group outgrew its first meeting place, moved to another temporary place inside the Community Activity Center (CAC) in 2008, then moved again to its current place in the town-owned former firehouse building in August 2011.

The quest for a permanent home for the town’s senior population was affected by the 2008 economic recession, as well as a short-lived negative blip in the town’s elected leadership.

The 2012 election put development-friendly members on the council who are more receptive to the idea of a new center, Toth said. During Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos interviews, the topic was discussed and he met with Seniors In Motion members shortly after he started early this year.

The council approved a $283,500 contract in June for the design of the new center, set for construction on town-owned land at the southwest corner of Long Prairie Road and West Windsor Drive.

The new building will have more space for the group’s more than 1,000 members and several rooms for diverse activities. Seniors currently have to sign up in advance for special events due to space constrictions. The current building has one big room, with partitions and nooks serving as make-do dividers. In addition, members with mobility issues have difficulty.

The recent TIRZ vote reflected the board members’ request for further information about the diversity of possible user groups.

“The [TIRZ] board members said they wanted to have a complete picture of how the building will be used and who the users will be and that’s good and important,” said Stathatos. “The Town hasn’t come up with a policy on how the meeting space could be used, but that it’s reasonable to assume that community groups could have access to it; like town committees, the school groups whose students volunteer their time to local community charities, scouting groups and many other local groups who don’t have a space of their own.

“Also, our facility would attract seniors from neighboring communities who don’t have their own senior centers—like Argyle, Bartonville and Lantana, so we can actually serve the entire county.”

No future TIRZ Board meeting has been scheduled. Regular meetings are held twice a year.

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