Childcare committee to begin drafting recommendations

Jill Schramm/MDN Amy Jenkins, right, a member of the Minot Childcare Committee, speaks to the committee. Listening, from left, are committee members Terry Schmalz, John Van Dyke and Shelbi Lawson.

A Minot committee researching childcare issues in Minot began identifying recommendations Tuesday to forward to the Minot City Council.

The committee looks to offer suggestions that can be quickly implemented as well as consider options for private-public partnerships in the childcare arena.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee discussed potential funding through the MAGIC Fund, which is the city’s economic development fund, or through Community Development Block Grants, which the city is eligible to directly receive having gained federal designation as a metropolitan community.

The MAGIC Fund has $6.9 million in unobligated money. Guidelines for the fund, which have restricted beneficiaries to primary sector businesses, are being rewritten. It has not been determined whether new guidelines will allow for assistance for childcare facilities.

Use of the MAGIC Fund or CDBG funds come with challenges, Minot City Manager Harold Stewart told the committee.

“If our only answer to funding any of these problems is the MAGIC Fund or city CDBG funds, everything’s coming out of the pockets of the city. That’s going to create other challenges and issues for the community as well. I’d like to hear some suggestions of how the private sector can be partners in this as well. This needs to be a public-private partnership, not solely government – and particularly local government – bearing the financial burden of trying to help solve this problem,” he said.

“If the city is carrying the lion’s share of the funding for this, that’s going to be extremely difficult, especially during a time when we have citizens that are paying a lot of attention to how we’re making our financial decisions and questioning the things that we’re getting involved in, saying those aren’t the role of government,” he said. “The city, in my opinion, should probably be a partner and part of the solution, and maybe even partner financially. I can see that. But if we’re expected to carry the bulk of the responsibility on this from a financial perspective, that is its own challenge because then we’re going to have to start making sacrifices on other services because our financial resources are only so much.”

Committee member John Van Dyke said money already is available through the state for childcare assistance but information about those programs needs to be disseminated. An unscientific survey commissioned by the city found parents, providers and businesses often weren’t aware of the state programs.

Van Dyke and other committee members voiced concern that the information presented to the community is so extensive and diverse that it would be worth tasking a staff member or agency with assembling it into options for the committee’s consideration in recommending a plan of action.

While that avenue will be investigated, the committee also further identified other actions the city could take, such as finding suitable locations for potential daycares.

Finance Director David Lakefield said finding a solution means distilling the problem to its root cause.

“The daycares can’t hire enough people to staff and bring in more kids. So it doesn’t do us really any good to spend millions of dollars to build another daycare center if we can’t staff it and properly take care of those kids,” Lakefield said.

Committee and city council member Lisa Olson mentioned adding training at the new downtown Career and Technical Education Center for childcare center directors to create a labor pool.

Committee member Amy Jenkins, who works in childcare licensing, said it is easier to start up home daycares than a center. The committee discussed assembling and providing business information for entrepreneurs looking to start home daycares, much of which is available through the state’s Childcare Aware program. The committee also will look into whether free CPR and first-aid classes might be made available through the city’s fire department.

At its next meeting Oct. 10, the committee hopes to work through a list of potential recommendations to begin establishing priorities.


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