In the wake of this month’s closure of Community Day Care Center’s Eighth Street location, which cut 68 childcare slots from a city long facing a daycare shortage, the Finney County Economic Development Corp. updated its board Wednesday on the organization’s developing plans for a network of care centers throughout the city.

After the daycare announced the closure in January, the FCEDC worked with the CDCC Board of Directors and Kansas Children’s Service League to try to accommodate the location’s 44 children without a gap in service. Unexpected costly renovations to the facility ultimately halted those plans.

Since its closure on Feb. 8, the CDCC location on College Street, a now full center with about 60 children on its waiting list, continues to operate, along with 47 home daycares, as the only childcare providers in the county.

“I think you’re all probably very well aware of the work that we’ve been doing on childcare ... The Eighth Street facility did close, unfortunately, at the beginning of this month, but we are continuing to work towards a systemic, sustainable solution that we’ve been working on for the last two years,” FCEDC President and CEO Lona DuVall told the board Wednesday.

Since determining that bringing in an outside, private childcare provider would not be feasible — such companies tend to charge up to $300 a week for services, and Finney County residents are used to rates under $190 a week — the organization has worked to build a network of childcare centers with local public and private entities, DuVall said.

The FCEDC updated public partners and local early childhood experts, such as Garden City USD 457, Garden City Community College, Russell Child Development Center and the KCSL, this week on where the FCEDC is with its network plan. FCEDC officials plan to meet soon with private companies to discuss mutually beneficial public-private solutions, DuVall said. She declined to identify the companies.

“Quite frankly, it turns out that we have a lot of really good experts in this community related to childcare and early childhood, and I think we’re going to end up having a much stronger solution in the end than we would have had we brought an outsider in to provide that care. But, it’s certainly been more of a challenge to design that because we’ve really had to start from zero,” DuVall told the board.

The organization will provide further updates at Garden City and Finney County commission meetings next month, DuVall said in a separate interview. The FCEDC is hopeful the discussion will move “pretty rapidly,” but there is no set timeline, she said.

The network likely would lean on six to seven smaller daycare facilities capped at 59 children per center, since state regulations make it difficult to financially support centers with 60 or more slots, said Shannon Dick, FCEDC strategic analyst, at the meeting. Ideally, the number of home daycares, which has shrunk significantly in the past 15 years due to stricter state regulations, also would grow, he said.

About 3,600 children in Finney County are 5  and younger, Dick said, and according to a 2012 report, about 1,800 needed childcare at that time. In 2012, the county was short about 485 childcare slots, he said. Now, the number is well over 700.

The six to seven smaller daycare facilities would, at most, close that gap by about 354 to 413 slots, but the network would be able to address the remaining shortage in other ways, DuVall said in a separate interview. Potentially, it could inspire and offer training to new home, faith-based or center providers, she said.

“We’ve never anticipated that the network would provide for all of the (local) childcare need. We just simply want the network to be available to provide support so that we can have private solutions and other public solutions coming to the forefront,” DuVall said.

In other business:

• The FCEDC met with a new industrial prospect on Feb. 1 to discuss utility providers and potential sites, and has since submitted potential sites to the developer. The FCEDC has not yet publicly identified the prospect.

• The FCEDC will submit a local industrial and commercial site for potential site certification through the Kansas Economic Development Alliance, a fairly new process that checks and adds further verification of the use of a site, such as utilities and access. The idea is that the stamp of approval would make certified sites more appealing to private site selectors. Former Garden City Engineer Steve Cottrell heads the process, which no communities have so far taken advantage of.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.