ALTUS, OK (KSWO) - At Altus City Hall, the city unveiled what their plans are for an old library, and discussed it with the senior citizens who would be using the renovated building the most. The Dr. Morris Foster Library will soon be the new Altus Senior Activity Center. The plan to give senior citizens a larger place to go for meals and fun was built into the MAPS sales tax plan that voters approved in 2008. Right now, seniors use a re-purposed school called the Wilson Center, and share the space with a number of other organizations. So to give the seniors, the free senior meal and the Meals on Wheels program a little more elbow room, the city is updating a building to give them room to grow.
The seniors at the meeting were excited that a project that has been on the back burner for so long is finally getting pushed ahead. The city treated a lot of their questions like suggestions. They are in the very beginning stages of designing the center, so anything that the seniors wanted to see if they could include in the final product, like computer stations or areas with workout equipment, were all things that can be added into the design.
The Dr. Morris Foster Library is a building that has been around since 1965, and has served mostly educational purposes up until 2013. That's when Altus Public Schools didn't need it as a library any more after renovating their high school. Last year, the schools handed it over to the city for the new senior center.
Altus Technical Engineer Phillip Beauchamp is on this project's committee, and says he is ready to give this building a new life.
"We're very excited about this," said Beauchamp. "It's time to get this project going."
The plan for this building is to keep the two large spaces on either side as open as possible for anything they can come up with. One side will be for eating, and the site for dances and live music. The other will be cozier with carpeting and lounge chairs where the seniors can add different activities to that space.
Where the building is also plays into the center's uses.
"It's also located right there next to the city park so there is plenty of places that they can take leisurely strolls and do some walking," said Beauchamp. "As well as the swimming pool, it's just next door."
The city did include a new structure that extended from the building to house the commercial kitchen for the senior meal program, and Meals on Wheels. They're going to build it in the same style as the rest of the building with curved walls and the detailed roof. It's all in an effort to preserve the unique architecture in this old library.
Councilman Chris Riffle, also on this project's committee, says there is a strong feeling of nostalgia when it comes to the library. That played into some of their reason for not constructing a new building for the senior center.
"When you look at that building a lot of the folks that have been here all their lives, it's part of who they are," said Riffle. "Their kids went there."
They are planning to meet with the people of the Southwest Oklahoma Community Action Group who host the senior feeding programs. The city will learn everything the group will need out of this new center. Councilman Riffle says they are trying to go to great lengths to include everyone who will use this building in the discussion.
The estimate on the renovation and add-ons cost is about $2 million. Councilman Riffle says if everything goes smoothly, they could be opening the center's door by this time next year.