Steamboat City Council to reconsider approval of new child care center that some residents are labeling a boondoggle | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat City Council to reconsider approval of new child care center that some residents are labeling a boondoggle

A rendering shows what the new Igloo will look like.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Some Steamboat Springs residents are starting to call a child care center known affectionately as the Igloo by a less flattering name:

Boondoggle.

The Steamboat Springs City Council is set to revisit its recent endorsement of a nearly $1 million project to replace this aging child care center amid some heavy pushback from some constituents and new enrollment data showing the existing facility isn't being fully utilized.

In pushing for the project, city officials have said the new 2,500-square-foot modular building that will replace the Igloo will increase capacity and revenue at the facility.

But enrollment data the council will review Tuesday shows that the Igloo is not close to capacity in some of its current preschool programing.

For example, the PeeWee Adventures program, which is advertised to accommodate as many as 15 children between 2.5 and 5-years-old, currently only has three children in the program on Tuesday and one child on Thursday.

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Parents in the community have also recently reported there are multiple openings for this age group at private preschool facilities in the area.

A majority of the council directed city staff Tuesday to continue with the Igloo replacement project despite its skyrocketing cost and other hiccups.

Councilman Scott Ford, who has opposed the project because he doesn't think child care is a core city service the government can afford, said the council lacked the important enrollment data when it gave a nod to advance the project earlier this week.

"We didn't really have the data last time to make an accurate decision," Ford said.

Since the council endorsed the project, other concerns have quickly emerged in the community.

Residents have written to their elected officials chilled about the project’s price tag as well as the city's plan to not put the project out to a competitive bid.

To move forward with the project more quickly and possibly have a foundation constructed this fall, the city has been planning to instead award an $883,000 construction contract to a local building company without going through an open bidding process.

Former city councilman Jon Quinn is among those who have spoken out against the project.

He called the council's recent direction to advance it “absolutely ridiculous.”

He also said it would be “shameful” for the council to award a no-bid contract to push the project through more quickly.

"Having worked closely with the child care professionals in this town, I can assure you that they would be able to better serve the needs of the children and working parents of this community with a proportionate donation from the city instead of this boondoggle," Quinn wrote.

Even some parents who have had children attend the Igloo are questioning why the city is about spend so much money to replace it.

Lineh Wingard called the programs that two of her children attended at the Igloo “top notch,” but she noted the city’s preschool programming appeared to be underutilized.

“It is wasteful of the city to spend a million dollars to continue a program that serves such a small group of children when we have real child care needs in Steamboat,” she said.

She added the community is more in need of child care for infants and toddlers.

The council is set to formally decide Tuesday whether to continue with the Igloo replacement project.

Ford and City Manager Gary Suiter said the Igloo was added again to the agenda after the council started getting pushback on the issue following their endorsement of it Tuesday.

Ford requested the Igloo enrollment data so that that the council have it next week when the issue was revisited.

The endorsement of the project earlier this week took place at a work session where the council is not allowed to take votes or make formal decisions.

Instead, the council directed city staff to move forward with the no-bid approach to building the Igloo with a series of head nods.

Ford and Kathi Meyer opposed the direction to move forward.

Public comment on the Igloo project will be taken sometime after 5 p.m. Tuesday night in Citizens Hall.

The price of replacing the Igloo has skyrocketed from an estimated $340,000 in 2014 to likely more than $900,000 today.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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