The second time was the charm for Flower Mound’s senior citizens.
At its special meeting Monday afternoon, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) Board voted 4-1 to recommend its financial support to build a new Flower Mound Senior Center to the Town Council, one month after voting 3-2 to deny funding its share of the center.
“I believe there was some level of commitment and an expectation that TIRZ would be funding the building of a senior center,” said Board Chairman Jim Robertson. “Since the 2005 list of projects was created, the town has addressed the needs of its citizens one-by-one and it’s now time to address our seniors. They’ve outgrown three different locations and it’s time to build a permanent building.”
The Flower Mound Town Council approved a contract in June for the design of the new 22,387 square-foot senior center, set for construction on town-owned land at the southwest corner of Long Prairie Road and West Windsor Drive.
TIRZ Board member Bill Collins questioned if a $500,000 non-committed TIRZ budget balance would be a large-enough emergency fund after using $4.4 million to build the estimated $5.6 million center.
“Back when TIRZ was formed, projects listed for funding were infrastructures fixes like the water line for FM 407 and FM 2499, Chinn Chapel and Dixon Roads and also a senior center,” said Economic Development Director Mark Wood. “That $500,000 balance will only be for one year, because the balance after that should be back up to about $2.5 million with the River Walk and the new economic developments—like Market Street and La Madeleine—feeding into the TIRZ.”
Town Manager Jimmy Strathatos added that the general capital fund will help grow the TIRZ fund.
The need for a new facility was questioned by TIRZ board member Larry Lipscomb, who said he had finally stopped by the present facility and found that at one point only 25 people were using the room, while another time it sat empty. He acknowledged that a non-governmental facility may not be used at all times; he said the existing building wasn’t used at full-capacity most of the time.
“I just look at whether we need it, or if it could be done for less money, or if there are other alternatives,” said Lipscomb. “For $5 million how about adding a second story to the existing building or selling the acreage on West Windsor and finding a place in the River Walk?”
Robertson pointed out that the present location of the senior center was built back in the 1970s and was previously the town hall, the first fire station, the police department and had its roof ripped-off during a tornado. He pointed out that it’s an aging building with a projected 25-to-30 year life expectancy; which it had already reached.
Board member Bryan Webb said that he’d visited the existing senior center more often than Lipscomb, but had mainly attended special events or activities when the one-room facility was filled to capacity.
Robertson asked Senior Program Supervisor Jaime Cooper if having only one large room ever proved a problem with scheduling.
“We have trouble every single day,” said Cooper about space conflicts. “We have to limit what we can offer, because we only have one room. Even though there are dividers, they do nothing for sound issues. Add to that the fact that many seniors don’t hear as well as they used to and trying to have a craft class, a card group and a class learning Spanish in one area makes it difficult for everyone. And for space, we have a yoga class that needs to come in before everyone else, because yoga takes a lot of space.”
Webb also added that suggestions to use the acreage on West Windsor for a future Town Hall weren’t feasible, because the 4.5-acre parcel wasn’t enough space to provide adequate parking necessary for both the senior center and Town Hall.
The new building will be able to house community activities–such as the 200-participant Chamber of Commerce Chick-Fil-A Leadership Seminar and the recent Drug Summit, both of which needed to be held at Trietsch United Methodist Church due to space constraints.
Strathatos added that the town already owns the land—appraised at about $1 million—and about half the total acreage is targeted for a private commercial development, which will add to the town’s revenue.
With a four-to-one vote, Lipscomb being the sole negative vote against using TIRZ funds for the project, the board approved a budget of up to $4.4 million, provided a non-committed balance of $500,000 remains in the TIRZ budget to address emergency needs.
Although listed on the following Town Council meeting agenda, the senior center item was carried-over for the January 6 meeting.
Council member Steve Dixon informed audience members that the center had been put on the agenda in case the TIRZ Board denied approval, but its recommendation negated the council’s action. Mayor Tom Hayden suggested a final council vote be taken.
“The fact that the council has already approved the design and that the TIRZ Board has recommended the project, it’s set to go forward,” said Strathatos. “It will need to be voted on to approve a construction manager after the risk management bids are in.”
The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.