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Family of 92-year-old woman fight to keep her home in Ponca City

By ZACH RAEL

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    PONCA CITY, Oklahoma (KOCO) — The family of a 92-year-old woman is fighting to keep her in her home in Ponca City.

The Ponca City Board of Education wants her property to build the district’s new indoor and outdoor athletic facilities. The district is now asking the courts to take her land from her, along with several other properties.

The family said 92-year-old Frances Welch can’t move because of her declining health. Welch has been in her Ponca City home for more than 70 years, where she raised a family and would like to spend her last days.

That wish is in jeopardy now.

“We don’t know why she would need to be forced out of her home at this time,” said Harlen Hentges, attorney for Frances Welch.

Hentges represents Welch and was hired because the Ponca City Board of Education said they need Welch’s land to build a new multipurpose indoor athletic facility and soccer fields.

The district said right now they are land locked and have no room to expand for the new athletic facility. Now, they want to take Welch’s land by eminent domain.

“She is 92 years old. She suffers from dementia. Whenever she is not in a familiar place, she is severely agitated and tries to leave,” Hentges said.

KOCO 5 reached out to Ponca City Public Schools for comment. They declined an on-camera interview but sent a statement that said in part, “We understand the process of eminent domain will be a hardship for the families involved; however, we are trying to make this process as convenient as possible for the property owners.”

The statement goes on to say, “the district has willingly made generous offers to ensure improved accommodations for the families and we are following a methodical process to accomplish this task.”

Hentges said it isn’t about money.

“Money cannot protect her from the damage to her quality of life during the short time she has left. This is not about money. This is about a family, a society, a community’s responsibility for their most vulnerable members.”

A hearing in Kay County is set for Thursday morning to start the eminent domain process. Hentges plans to ask the court to dismiss the petition.

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