Pre-Kindergartners, from left, Daniel Kempers, Dallas Whitmore and Jack Cashen enjoy an afternoon snack at the Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs on Monday.

Photo by Brian Ray

Pre-Kindergartners, from left, Daniel Kempers, Dallas Whitmore and Jack Cashen enjoy an afternoon snack at the Discovery Learning Center in Steamboat Springs on Monday.

Council considers child care

Quinn, Hermacinski say affordability is about more than housing

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— Jon Quinn believes Steamboat Springs officials should expand their focus when addressing the city's high cost of living.

"I think the affordability of Steamboat is broader than just housing needs," the Steamboat Springs councilman said Monday. "I really want to see us broaden our understanding of what makes Steamboat affordable or, as the case may be, unaffordable."

Specifically, Quinn believes Steamboat has a "child care crisis" that needs to be quantified and confronted. At a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting Tuesday, Quinn and Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski proposed broader strategies - such as incorporating child care and transportation needs into housing discussions - for making Steamboat livable for its middle-class citizens.

"I think child care goes to the heart of affordability in Steamboat," Quinn said.

The idea was part of an affordable housing discussion that also included suggestions such as repealing or revising components of the city's affordable housing legislation passed last year.

Quinn noted that the city currently has no way to quantify the local lack of child care - only anecdotal evidence. But that's something Discovery Learning Center Executive Director Tami Havener can provide in abundance.

"Discovery's waiting list is very long," she said Monday. "Kids can't enroll here until they're 3 years old, and we have parents calling when they're pregnant."

Havener said that while there are more than 200 births a year in Routt County, there are only 60 corresponding licensed spots for child care. She said there is plenty that local government can do to address the problem. Havener said the city has a golden opportunity with Steamboat 700, the 700-acre proposed development west of Steamboat that proposes about 2,000 homes and hopes to be annexed into city limits. In reviewing the development and placing terms on the annexation, Havener said, the city should not put any barriers on home child care. The city also could provide incentives for such operations, such as water bill breaks.

Quinn said he believes child care is an appropriate focus for the city's existing officials and entities such as the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

"The last thing we need to do is throw more money at creating a new entity," Quinn said Monday. "At the legislative level, we need to address that there is a problem."

At Tuesday's meeting, Hermacinski asked city staff to investigate whether other communities put any of their affordable housing fees toward needs such as child care and transportation. Hermacinski's direction to staff came even as she suggested that the city repeal its linkage fees on commercial developments. Commercial linkage, which was one of the more hotly debated aspects of affordable housing legislation the city passed in June, requires developers to pay fees into a city fund specifically for affordable housing.

Hermacinski said she is concerned about the negative economic effects linkage might be causing. Noting the weakening national economy, Hermacinski said, "It's a really touchy time to be tweaking with the market process."

Quinn suggested a touchy measure of his own: allowing developers the option of paying a fee in lieu of providing the entire amount of affordable units they are required to build under the city's inclusionary zoning requirements.

Council members Meg Bentley and Steve Ivancie were not supportive of the suggested revisions.

"We need to give these things time to either work or not work," Ivancie said.

No official action was taken on the proposed revisions to the city's affordable housing ordinances. Changes will be considered in coming weeks and subsequently presented to City Council for consideration.

Comments

424now 6 years, 9 months ago

SP&T this is an excellent article.

In my opinion, you have to lay a foundation before you can frame a house. You need a roof over you family's head prior to considering child care. Yes child care is an issue. It has been ever since it became a necessity for both parents in a young family to work.

I don't think the city council needs to do any more than bring the issue to light and inform the community. I think we as a community can do what is needed.

College of the mountain could provide the classes to train interested homemakers in the skills and requirements of home based child care. Teach them how to get licensed. Then these persons can open a child care in their own home. One of the working parents can do so from home while assisting other young families in the process.

I used a family friend when my kids were young. She learned how in community college. She was licensed by the State. She took in four kids at any given time. She was raising two of her own also. There was a waiting list to get into her program. Her house was at the end of our street. At the ages of three and four my kids were exposed to a classroom like environment. It was an outstanding experience. After they began school they went directly to her house afterward and either my wife or I picked them up from there. They did their homework shortly after school got out and when we got home it was all family time.

As a community we can help the young families with these things. The need for development is an issue that rightfully should foreshadow child care at this point in time. You need a house before you can provide home based child care.

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armchairqb 6 years, 9 months ago

child care providers need good moral character. Could someone explain how you define that so that city council could explain and define it the owner of the Jade Summit. Some one at the bank said the other day if you want good moral character go church !!!!! The Jade Summit is a bar for crying out loud!!!!!

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