The Finney County Economic Development Corp. announced the prospective location for the first, and largest, of potentially several new child care centers Monday, passing along the decision of how to proceed to local stakeholders.
Lona DuVall, president and CEO of the FCEDC, identified the vacant Homestead Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center building on north Third Street, owned by Midwest Health, as a location for two programs the organization has spearheaded: the budding child care service, the Finney County child care and Early Learning Network, and technical education and resource hub, Great Plains MakerSpace.
The front, horseshoe-shaped part of the building would be transformed into the MakerSpace facility, offering space and equipment for wood and metalworking, pottery and ceramics, robotics and electronics, textiles, digital media and more. Once the facility is operational, professionals could hold a variety of technical classes, and locals would be able to sign up for memberships to access the space on their own, DuVall said.
The back section of the building would be the Early Learning Network’s largest and most versatile child care center, ideally offering day, evening and overnight on-site child care services. It would serve about 80 to 85 children ages 0 to 5 at one time, DuVall said.
For reference, Garden City’s Community Day Care Center’s existing location on College Drive serves a maximum of 97 children, and its now-closed Eighth Street location served a maximum of 68. The FCEDC has stated previously that the child care and Early Learning Network also plans to open an undetermined number of smaller centers, each serving up to 59 children.
The building likely would cost about $200,000 to purchase from Midwest Health and about $400,000 to remodel, city manager Matt Allen told the Garden City Commission Monday. Once the building is bought, renovations should only take several months, DuVall said.
At this point, DuVall said, the path forward lies in the hands of local stakeholders, the City of Garden City, Finney County, the City of Holcomb and Garden City Community College, one of which would likely own the building. With initial deals broached and plans drawn, it is now up to the city and county to decide whether they want to be involved with the project and how much to offer for the building.
Finding money for the building wouldn't fall solely on the public entities, DuVall said. The FCEDC has already begun fundraising efforts and partnering with local private entities to secure some funding for the project.
The Garden City Commission touched on the topic briefly at their Tuesday meeting as Allen and the commissioners discussed how to proceed.
Commissioner Lindsay Byrnes asked her fellow commissioners whether they were in support of the project.
“For years, we’ve been talking about this issue and recognizing that it's quite urgent for many of our families and members of our community," Byrnes said. "Are we on board with public support of this project, and to what end? And then, I think, if we can lean on this, we can help direct the other governing bodies. Or encourage the other governing bodies."
Commissioner Dan Fankhauser said he thought the commission was in support of the project, though he was not ready to make a decision. Commissioner Troy Unruh said he still needed more information about the project before committing public dollars to it. One center won't solve the child care crisis on its own, he said.
The commission will revisit the discussion at an upcoming meeting.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the name of the vacant building identified for the child care and MakerSpace facilities. It was formerly the Homestead Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.