By Justin Lofton
ADA—Ada City Council members listened Tuesday morning to a proposal to build a youth academy in Ada.
Ada Jobs Foundation President and CEO Mike Southard and Dr. Steve Turner, East Central University’s vice president for administration and finance, said the academy would offer high school diplomas to at-risk youth.
“It’s an education based youth academy that would be a contract with the Office of Juvenile Affairs. The state is closing the Rader facility in Sand Springs,” Southard said. Turner said the children at the youth academy would not be detained behind fences.
“We are not talking today about those that are violent,” Turner said. “There are no sex offenders.”
Southard said the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs was looking at placing youth academies in Eastern and Western parts of the state and sent requests for information to various communities.
Turner said Ada and Clinton were brought up in discussions.
“We’re in the very beginning stages of competing for this project,” Southard said. “We’re just proposing that we stay in consideration until we have better information that we can evaluate a little bit better.”
He said it would be a $28 million bond project paid for by the state and could employ around 140 people—mostly professionals.
“A large majority of them are going to be professional positions,” he said. “There’s a huge tie-in with East Central from the employment side. From the children’s side, there would be a huge tie-in with the Technology Center.”
Southard said preliminary numbers indicate the facility could save the state about one-third of what the Rader facility costs and could reduce incarceration rates.
“It’s kind of like a military academy—very, very regimented,” he said. “Everybody dresses the same, everybody does the same thing, you run at least three miles a day.”
Turner said he and Southard would be presenting the proposal to the Office of Juvenile Affairs board On April 16 in Oklahoma City.
Also on Tuesday morning at the Ada City Council special meeting, Turner and ECU President John Hargrave presented a proposal for a recreation/aquatic center at ECU. The center would include a competitive pool complete with seating for spectators.
“The McBride gym has a swimming pool that is overused,” Turner said. “I think we have several folks that claim ownership.”
He said the pool would be 7,000 square feet and it would cost $1.7 to 2 million to have it in the facility. Hargrave said the university would eventually build the facility anyway but wanted to form a closer partnership with the city.
“This opportunity is there,” he said. “We would love a partnership with the city of Ada.”
He said the pool would be available to the public with fees and restrictions similar to those at the ECU wellness center.