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Daycare plan on park land will not move forward

Posted 6/02/15 (Tue)

By John D. Taylor
Daycare supporters learned Monday they should probably look elsewhere than city park ground as a potential place to site a new daycare facility for the city.
A movement to find and build a new daycare facility for the community has been gathering strength since early this spring.
Several properties have been proposed for the purpose of a new daycare, including land owned by the Divide County School District, Southridge Acres property, land under the auspices of the Crosby Park Board and private property in the city.
However, each time some problem arises with the property to nix the deal.
Last month, the Divide County Economic Development Council (EDC) approached the city with a promising new pitch to build the new daycare on city park land, and the city council instructed those involved to return with more information.
Monday evening, Sandra Simonson, representing the EDC, returned to the city council, to report on the siting of the proposed 1,5000 square-foot daycare facility in the city’s West Park.
The EDC has been looking at West Park and last week received further direction from the park board.
Park board members at their May 26 meeting came to the conclusion they can sell the land being considered, but with one stipulation: the EDC and daycare supporters must come up with a plan to alleviate the drainage problems in the east end of West Park by August 1, or the park board will back out of the deal. (See related story this page.)
When Simonson shared this information with the council, they turned to City Engineer Antonio Conti, of AE2S.
Conti said fixing the drainage issues on West Park is “do-able,” but expensive.
He told the council a study on how to alleviate drainage problems could cost about $15,000. The actual work involved in fixing the problems would take double this, to $30,000, and perhaps more.
“There’s a lot of water to fix,” Conti explained. “To fix this, you have to fix North Slough, and that will involve the drainage ditch we talked about. There’s also water coming from the county shop that would need to be diverted to the north. To fix all this it would probably cost more than the property is worth.”
Economic Development Coordinator KayCee Lindsey added that in order to make the cash flow for the daycare work, the building needs to be debt free. And since the EDC doesn’t have a steady stream of cash coming in, the daycare would need city support.
Knowing this, the city council urged Simonson to consider other options.
City park land is “not an option” any longer in the opinion of Mayor Bert Anderson.
Alderman Troy Vassen, who said he supports building a daycare, agreed.
Simonson said another property option for the daycare would be Joyce Aalund’s property, located near the 400 block of 1st Avenue NW.
Aalund has three lots – lots retired city auditor Carol Lampert said are larger than normal-sized city lots. Simonson said it is her understanding Aalund is willing to sell. The middle lot contains a vacant house that would need to be torn down, but the lots together, might be suitable for the daycare.
Aalund lives in California and Simonson has not yet discussed the possible sale.
Vassen said this seems like a good location and a better idea than city park land, given the costs.
“I’d rather put money in bricks and mortar than in a drainage plan,” Vassen said.
Mayor Anderson said the city is still willing to help with the daycare, but it would rather put money in building in another location, such as Aalund’s land.
Park Board Member Traci Lund, who said she is “extremely” in favor of the daycare said residents were concerned that they would lose all of their green space around the park, and that if the daycare is sited elsewhere, the park board can  proceed with earlier plans to put up a nice shelter.
Mayor Anderson urged Simonson to contact Aalund and work something out. He also suggested that Lynn Buck, who owns some land behind the Guardian Inn, might be another resource for an alternative location.
“I wish you the best of luck with Joyce Aalund,” Anderson said.