Members of Oregon City Council last Monday asked the city to look into the possibility of using Wynn Elementary School as a senior center.
The Oregon school board recently announced that the school would be closing due to budgetary constraints following the defeat of an operation levy last month.
Council members Dennis Walendzak and Sandy Bihn asked Mayor Mike Seferian to look into the feasibility of using the school for a senior center.
The city in the last several years has been looking at options for a new senior center. The current facility, the James Hancock Center on Bay Shore Road, is deemed too small and inadequate for the growing senior population in the city.
“I know it’s kind of out there a little bit,” said Walendzak in proposing the idea at a committee of the whole meeting last Monday, “but I asked them to look at the potential of using that facility.”
Seferian, though, doubted the building could be used for seniors because of operational costs.
“Our real challenge in any project is ongoing operation costs. So if we are to improve or replace the senior center, our real objective is to do it in such a manner that our operation costs are affordable, not ongoing. Unfortunately, when you look at sustaining a building like that, the operational costs are quite high,” said Seferian.
He said the city will look further into costs to make a final determination.
“We will continue to see. But it appears it would be a very costly operational venture to try and retrofit a building like that into a senior center. In all likelihood, it would become impractical. Initially, it looks like the operational costs become very, very expensive. We’ll look and see if we could be wrong,” said Seferian.
Bihn said she didn’t understand the mayor’s comment that it would be costly for the city to retrofit Wynn School into a senior center because the building has been renovated.
“There’s an existing cafeteria and a gym that has been upgraded at Wynn. As taxpayers in Oregon, we’re still paying for the improvements to that school that will now be closed,” said Bihn.
She said it is a “bitter pill to swallow” to see Wynn close because it is a neighborhood school where her grandchildren also attend.
“So it would be good if we could find some community need for that building that would bring people together - if not a senior center, something else. I know many of the people in the community would rather have a senior center in the urban, more populated area. But the building has been upgraded substantially. I’m a little confused by the mayor’s comments in terms of what the costs are. I, too, think that it warrants some investigation,” said Bihn.
“I wasn’t talking about the cost of retrofitting,” said Seferian. “I was talking about just the operational costs of sustaining that building, which is very expensive. First, we would have ongoing costs that would be very expensive, versus another situation where our operational costs would be almost non-existent. That is the type of thing that really ties up funds. Anytime we increase our operation costs, we ultimately use up a certain part of the budget that goes on forever. And that leaves us with less opportunities for capital improvements, or any other projects we may have. It is something that we’ve been looking at, cutting operational costs in every department we have in the city. It is something that would increase operational costs three or four fold of what we’re currently paying at our senior center now.”
Besides a senior center, Bihn said Wynn could be multi-purpose facility that would provide a variety of services to the community.
“One aspect of it is there’s a gym. We as a city do not have a gym for our recreation. We have been using the school gym pretty much for nothing for years, or at a very low cost. So there are other aspects,” said Bihn. “The gym, basically, could be rented as well. Besides senior activities, there are multi-faceted purposes that building could hold, and perhaps give some payback in something other than senior services. But that’s just something to look at. For me, it’s a really sad event that Wynn is closing. And to have that building, in some way, be something to the community would be a good thing, if possible.”