PONCA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – In a hearing Thursday morning, the attorney for Ponca City School Board said they will take a couple of weeks to negotiate a voluntary settlement with Frances Welch’s family.
“The school board decided not to move forward today,” said Harlan Hentges, attorney for the Welch family. “They want an opportunity to try to come up with some ways to accommodate Mrs. Welch and that’s a good thing.”
Frances Welch is a 92-year-old with dementia, and her family does not want her to be relocated at this time.
The school board made plans to build a new high school football training facility and locker room with money granted to them from a bond issue passed by voters in 2015.
Thursday’s hearing allows Mrs. Welch to continue living in the house she has known for 70 years.
“She doesn’t have much time left. We want as much time with her as possible,” said Philis Whitsitt, the wife of Frances’ grandson.
However, today’s hearing did not make her stay permanent. The next few weeks will provide more time between the two sides to come to some sort of conclusion.
“Everyone needs to be open minded about this and not think with dollar signs,” said Whitsitt.
Money is not the issue for the family. The wellbeing of Frances Welch and her ability to live undisturbed is most important.
Members of the community were in attendance for the hearing.
Bryce Shelton doesn’t know the family, but felt it was only right to show up and support the Welch’s.
‘It’s pretty much, you know, her whole world, all she’s known for decades. And the school wants to rush a process to get something that’s, quite frankly, in my opinion, not that important,” said Shelton, who had his wife and two kids standing nearby.
Shelton heard about this case from Facebook posts. He said the use of eminent domain to force Mrs. Welch out of her home is incomprehensible.
“That’s pretty asinine to evict an elderly woman out of her house so you can build a sports complex,” said Shelton.
He isn’t the only one that supports Frances Welch. Over 4,000 people have signed a petition asking for the 92-year-old to keep her home.
The Ponca City Public School Board released the following statement:
We are currently working on a solution to present to the Welch family attorney. We feel confident that this solution will be agreeable to the Welch family and will also benefit the students of Ponca City Public Schools.Ponca City Public Schools
To see what happens next, the Welch family will wait for July 11 – the next school board meeting.