Lona DuVall, president and CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corp., told city and county officials earlier this week that the FCEDC hopes to soon share details of its plans to open new facilities to help address the local childcare shortage.

“I think we’re getting really, really, close, and hopefully we’ll be able to share details and what that plan looks like very shortly,” DuVall said at Tuesday's Garden City Commission meeting.

FCEDC officials have yet to announce specific plans, but have proposed establishing two large childcare facilities for 110 to 145 children, two midsized centers for 50 to 75 children, and four small centers for 30 to 45 children.

Working in collaboration with Child Care Aware, a statewide childcare resource and referral network, and using data sourced from 2012, FCEDC lead strategic analyst Shannon Dick found that there are only about 1,307 childcare slots in Finney County for children up to age 5. The demand, he calculated, is around 1,792 slots, meaning there is a childcare availability shortfall of at least 485 slots.

Dick noted earlier this year that Garden City has only gotten bigger since 2012, and there is actually less supply due to tighter regulations for home-based childcare providers. According to Child Care Aware, the number of childcare options in the community has dropped from 90 in 2012 to 61 in 2018.

During Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, DuVall said that FCEDC’s focus for the last month or two has been working with practitioners ensuring that the design of what FCEDC is proposing would be the best practice for children. She and other FCEDC officials have been meeting with nurse practitioners, as well as Kansas Children’s Service League and three in-home care providers, to discuss potential plans.

“I think it would’ve been easy for us financially to create the right thing, but that didn’t mean it was going to be the right thing for our young children,” DuVall told city commissioners. “ … There is really good opportunities to talk and see if what we are doing is best for our children and if what we are doing is best for our employers.”

Earlier this week, FCEDC officials met to go over budgets and plans for the childcare proposals, and during Tuesday’s meeting, DuVall said the next step would be for FCEDC to meet with public partners — the city, county and Garden City USD 457 — to go over the plans one more time.

“If it works on that side, you know if they feel comfortable with it as public entities and larger employers, obviously, and then the next step would be to launch it with our private partners, the larger employers in the community,” DuVall said.

Private partners in the project have yet to be announced.

“For us, it was just really important, we wanted to make sure that we weren’t just taking care of the immediate need of today’s workforce, but that we were really creating an opportunity to build a better workforce for the future,” DuVall said.

City Commissioner Dan Fankhauser asked DuVall if there has been any consideration to using the former Sears building as a potential space for childcare because of its size.

“I do understand that it is a large space, and there is certainly a million uses that folks have brought to our attention that each would be wonderful. But quite frankly for us, it’s very important that we’re utilizing our spaces to the very best advantage,” DuVall said. “That retail corridor is strong, and we shouldn’t do anything that’s going to take away from that opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make sure that what we put in there is of a use that compliments the big retail we have in that area.”

City Commissioner Lindsay Byrnes said she would like to volunteer to help with facilitating the project, whether it be through serving on a committee or focus groups.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we work on it,” Byrnes said of addressing the childcare needs in the county.

DuVall’s quarterly reports to the two commissions also included information on Ranch House Senior Living, LLC complex, which is expected to open July 25.

Ranch House Senior Living, located in the 2900 block of Campus Drive, will be a senior community living facility featuring multiple levels of care, including 40 assisted living suites and 60 skilled nursing rooms with access to a state-of-the-art rapid recovery rehabilitation unit.

The 74,000-square-foot facility sits on 25 acres.

Midwest Health, Inc., out of Topeka will develop and manage the facility. Midwest Health also owns Homestead Health and Rehabilitation, 2308 N. Third St.

“What they’re building right now is what they consider phase one. What they are focused on is the skilled nursing side and some assisted nursing,” DuVall said of the senior living facility. “ …. They will be closing down their other skilled nursing facility and moving folks over to the new facility.”

DuVall said the FCEDC has also been working with Ranch House to address staffing needs.

“They’re doing better than maybe they have anticipated,” she said. “It helps they had already existing facilities in the community, so they’ve been able to train folks and have jobs for them, instead of just trying to get to opening day and suddenly hire a lot of staff.”

The FCEDC is working with both Garden City High School and Garden City Community College to address the staffing needs.

“One of the other things we’re going to continue to work with them on is really growing our own for their purposes, and that will include starting when they are in high school. If they (students) have identified that they like health as one of the career paths they like, we will work with them to get their training done and we will work with them so they are able to get some of their technical training on site at Ranch House, which is one of the reasons that location worked so well for them,” DuVall said. “And also working with the community college to ensure that we have a good stream, if you will, of nursing professionals and health professionals.”

 

Contact Josh Harbour at jharbour@gctelegram.com.