County sits on kid cash
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 7, 2013
Nearly a year after receiving a report about day care needs, Teton County is still undecided about how to spend $1 million earmarked for child care.
County Administrator Steve Foster said this week he expects to work with architects in coming months to determine whether it’s feasible to expand the Children’s Learning Center building on Mercill Avenue.
“We want to move forward,” he said, “but there are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Teton County paid a consultant more than $9,000 last year to research day care needs. That report was delivered to county officials last spring. There isn’t a specific deadline to act on the recommendations or add to day care options.
Children’s Learning Center operates in a building at the corner of Mercill Avenue and Milward Street, but is at capacity in its current building, Foster said. The center provides day care for about 250 children a day, and special needs therapy for about 150 kids each week.
The county owns the property where the child care sits, but the learning center owns the building.
At the same time, Foster said, he has been meeting with representatives of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort about the possibility of a project at the Stilson Ranch parking lot.
There is demand for more care on the west bank, Foster said, according to a recent survey of Teton Village businesses about their child care requirements. The survey showed a definite need for affordable infant and toddler care, Foster told commissioners Monday.
County officials still have more than $1 million on hand, left over from a $6 million specific purpose excise tax initiative in 2006. At the time, the money was supposed to go toward a project with the Teton County School District. The county planned to use the money to build a new day care on land donated by the school district.
When the school district backed out, county officials had to buy land for a project in Rafter J. They also received a $3 million state grant to fund construction and ended up spending about $5 million to build a day care in the South Park neighborhood.
In the fall, county commissioners paid themselves $1.4 million from the tax initiative. The money reimbursed the county for the land it purchased for the Rafter J building.
County leaders and St. John’s Medical Center managers also discussed a child care partnership for several years, but that plan never came to fruition.