Funding needed for child care facilities in Finney County

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram

Childcare projects were discussed at the Wednesday board meeting of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation.

Board member Bob Kreutzer expressed concern over funding for the commitment FCEDC made to Empirical Food in regard to child care.

Kreutzer said they thought they were going to be able to solve a lot of the problem with SPARK funding but haven't received any for the child care project.

"That Empirical thing is going to mean a significant amount of impact on Finney County and Garden City and all surrounding area," he said. "If we can't fulfill what we've committed and this thing fails, I don't know where we ever talk to any other major corporation that's going to come to town."

Board member Tom Walker agreed that the child care project is important and they've made a substantial commitment to Empirical and other groups in and around the county, so they need to find a way to make them happen.

Finney County Commissioner William Clifford attended the meeting. He said at the last SPARK meeting he attended with the county, officials said child care would be a priority in 2021.

"I've been at the table pushing that very hard. If we're in a position to really make these things happen, which I think we're close to doing, I do feel that they will be a No. 1 priority for funding," he said.

Clifford said there are a lot of moving parts, and there's a small hang-up on the state certification pieces where people are resistant to funding child care items because they're unsure if certification could occur before the SPARK spending deadline in March.

Lona DuVall, executive director of the FCEDC, said the Childcare and Early Learning Network Board is working diligently through the licensing process. All the facilities they are looking at have been run through the licensing every step of the way, as has the staff, and the project continue to move forward.

The Third Street facility is on the final step, which is getting all of the furniture and fixtures ordered and in place. However, it cannot be licensed until the classrooms are completely set up, DuVall said.

"We can move forward with those things, but there's probably not a lot that even with our budget that we would be able to shore up with the exception of licensing fees and those types of things, which we'll be happy to pay," she said. "It really is about the large expenditures that have to be completed to finish the licensing out on those."

The Nazarene Church facility did receive SPARK funding and has been able to order its classroom supplies, outdoor play equipment, etc., and DuVall anticipates that its licensing will come through in the first quarter of the year and will be able to operate.

Clifford said that if the Nazarene Church facility gets everything squared away it might help things moving in terms of funding.

"If we can show success on a small piece or the first pieces, we'll get some dominoes rolling," he said.

Kreutzer said it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: "We can't get money until we get licensed, we can't get licenses until we have money to do furniture and playground."

"We may need to do something through our board to allow us to get some of this furniture to get this playground to where we can get our license so we can get our money," he said.