Since 2011, Oologah residents and the Board of Trustees have regularly discussed building a new community center for residents to enjoy.
However, after multiple false starts, community groups are still meeting at local churches, and plans for a community building are not yet finalized.
This was the first concern Oologah residents voiced at an open-forum town hall meeting last Thursday night.
“We desperately need a community building,” one resident said.
Another spoke about all the groups that benefited from the old community building: senior citizens, cub scouts, alcoholics anonymous, birthday parties. At one point the building served as a shelter for families temporarily displaced by tornadoes.
“The whole community used that building,” she said. “It has been sorely missed, and I think that is something we have to put as a priority.”
In 2013, the town allocated $500,000 for a community center. Of that money, $213,598 has been spent on the planning stages of alternatives that did not come to fruition and cannot be recovered.
The reason why previous attempts failed, Mayor George Peters said, was that the cost of building exceeded anything the town could pay for.
“The lowest one I remember was $1.2 million, and it went up to well over $2 million,” Peters said. “That is when I said, ‘this is not something I’m willing to put my name on.’”
Peters added, “I wanted to make a decision I could go to bed with at night, and that wasn’t something I could do.”
“We don’t have to do a million dollar building,” a resident said. “We could do a smaller building and add on in phases.”
“It can start small. Oologah is small,” she said.
Another resident said, “Every town needs a gathering place. Every town. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be elaborate.”