Gov. Mary Fallin recently issued an executive order directing all state agencies to review their inventory of state-owned property and dispose of underutilized property to generate revenue and reduce expenses. “Disposing of underutilized property will reduce costs and ensure our taxpayer dollars are going towards the core government services that Oklahomans rely on,” said Fallin in a written statement. “That is especially important as we approach what we know will be a tough budget year.” One such property is state-owned Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, which closed in 2014. The state-supported institution served Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.
Sheree Powell, Department of Human Services spokeswoman, originally said DHS was waiting on the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the city of Enid to make a decision in regard to NORCE. Later, she said Robert M. Greer Center still is located on the NORCE property, even though the NORCE property is on the state’s underutilized property list. “The property is on the underutilized property list but it has a whole host of complications that would need to be addressed before it can be put up for auction,” said John Estus, OMES spokesman. “DHS has to declare it a surplus property before it can be put up for auction, and DHS has not done that.” State surplus property decisions go through and are approved by OMES.
“Greer is a 52-bed treatment facility for people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness who are violent,” Powell said. “That is a service we oversee. There have been talks about what to do with that service, but there simply is not a place for that service to go right now.” Steve Kime, city of Enid spokesman, said the city originally had looked at the property for a possible water storage and treatment facility. That plan was abandoned when the city commission learned there is an underground contamination plume from a nearby Archer Daniels Midland Co. facility. “The city is looking at all opportunities and all options for that property,” Kime said. “It’s so premature on what the best fit is and if the city of Enid can use it.”
Kime said the facility is in a preliminary evaluation phase, but the city is waiting to see if the state does anything with the property. “We’re waiting to hear more of a direct response from the state to see if they were going to offer the property for sale,” Kime said. “We’re far away from that.” While the city is waiting, Kime said the city continues to evaluate how the property could be repurposed. “At this point, it is not facing any imminent action as far as we can tell,” Estus said.
According to the governor’s office, DHS sold the Laura Dester Shelter to the city of Tulsa in July. The property was sold for $955,000. DHS Director Ed Lake announced the shelter is closing in February. Fallin’s office estimates the average annuals savings of such a sale are between $50,000 and $63,000. Since 2013, the state generated $1.5 million from the sale of six underutilized state properties, according to the governor’s office. NORCE’s sister facility, Southern Oklahoma Resource Center in Pauls Valley could become a prison and infirmary.
Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton told members of the Board of Corrections he recently toured the now-closed SORC and talks are under way about acquiring the facility. “This property, with its proximity and existing infrastructure, offers the department a rare and viable opportunity to expand our offender infirmary care and housing,” Patton said. Patton said he submitted a formal request to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to consider transferring the 590-acre property to the Department of Corrections. He said many of the property’s 29 structures are in good condition and that inmates could perform much of the necessary repairs and maintenance work. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Story by: Emily Summars with Enid News & Eagle