The Boulder City Council formally requested $110,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds from Jefferson County to purchase a building from Jim Darcy Elementary School north of Helena to use as a child care facility. The request for county ARPA funds will be discussed at the July 27 County Commission meeting.
According to City Council President Drew Dawson, ARPA funds would only provide half of the $110,000 at a time—the city would receive $55,000 in the near future and the other half "about a year from now," Dawson said. If the request for the ARPA funds is successful, the city will apply for a bridge loan of $55,000 so it can purchase and relocate the building as soon as possible, Dawson said. The city would eventually pay back the loan with the other half of the ARPA funds that it would receive in about a year, he added.
Dawson said that there has been a recent emphasis on the lack of licensed child care in Boulder and in much of the central Jefferson County area. He said that once the building is purchased, the city plans to transfer ownership of the building from the city to the Boulder Child Care Working Group, a spinoff of the Boulder Transition Advisory Committee that Dawson chairs. However, this can only happen once the group becomes an incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit. If the group achieves that status, it will be able to accept funding from a "variety of sources that allocate money towards child care," Dawson added.
The Jim Darcy building is "4 or 5 years old," and the city currently has arrangements in place to have the building moved, Mayor Rusty Giulio said at the City Council meeting.
Purchasing the building and moving it to Boulder is much more cost efficient than building a new facility, which would cost about $500,000, Giulio said. He added that the building would likely be placed near the Boulder Elementary School. Dawson said that the city has been talking with the Boulder Elementary School Board of Trustees and are in the process of making arrangements for the building to reside adjacent to the school.
Giulio said that putting the child care building near the elementary school would take advantage of the school lunch program. Dawson added that the child care facility could potentially have access to the school's playground equipment as well.
"Our futures are our kids," Giulio said. "We have to take care of them and offer better services as a community." He added that many of the teachers at the school need child care so that they can make it to work everyday.
Dawson said that the Boulder Childcare Working Group has looked at existing spaces in Boulder but had trouble finding a suitable space. The group explored offering child care at the Methodist church's Youth Hall, Dawson said, but its capacity would be 12–15 children—about 50 children are in need of childcare in Boulder, according to the needs assessment the group conducted.
"Is this an expansion of government?" Boulder resident Cheryl Haasakker asked at the City Council meeting. She said she was concerned that the city was getting into the child care business.
Dawson stressed that the city would not be running the facility, but would just be purchasing the building for the working group until the group receives its nonprofit status.
Dawson said that Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development in Butte helped the city write an application for a Headwaters Foundation grant that would help fund a child care coordinator for the city of Boulder. A child care coordinator would be instrumental in helping the city establish a licensed child care facility, and to help the group apply for grants, Dawson said.
"It's likely that the grant will be successful," Dawson said.
He said that the grant-funded child care coordinator position must be located within a nonprofit organization, so the coordinator will be part of the Jefferson Local Development Corporation until the working group becomes a nonprofit.