By Kyle Klausing News Editor Granite Falls EDA Director Cathy Anderson and City Manager Crystal Johnson attended this week’s Yellow Medicine Board meeting to try and persuade board members to approve their request for $25,000 for their ongoing childcare initiative. Their request comes on the heels of donation made late last month by Yellow Medicine for $25,000 towards the new childcare center currently under construction in Clarkfield.
At the time, the board weighed granting the same amount to Granite Falls, but decided to postpone the vote to allow Granite Falls officials more time to put together a formal presentation before the board. Both Clarkfield and Granite Falls applied for a DEED Childcare Grant, and are hoping to use financial support from other local entities to strengthen their application. The money would be available to current and new in-home daycare providers with a Granite Falls address seeking financial assistance from the EDA.
In her presentation, Anderson updated the board on recent progress in their initiative. She says that the Granite Falls EDA has partnered with Minnesota West as they work with a childcare company to reopen their childcare center (the name of the company is being withheld until a final contract is negotiated). The EDA has also raised the necessary funds to encourage interested residents to enter the family-based childcare sector, and is committed to helping current in-home providers make any needed updates or repairs to their homes.
In a debate that closely mirrored recent board discussions, members expressed concern about the lack of community financial contributions relative to the sum raised by Clarkfield. Board member Ron Antony also cautioned that if the board were to approve the donation, it might become a recurring financial commitment that he thinks isn’t sustainable. Board Chair Gary Johnson also criticized the proposal by pointing out that the funds would only be available to Granite.
Board member John Berends disagreed, saying this was a one-time contribution that would help families overcome the high start-up costs usually associated with in-home daycare. Berends also praised the plan for not creating competition with existing providers, and said he was open to making funds available to other Yellow Medicine residents.
EDA Director Johnson explained to the board that Granite Falls was pursuing a business-model approach to daycare, while Clarkfield was creating a municipally run facility. She called this approach innovated, because it brought together different partners who might not ordinarily be involved in childcare. In her letter to the board, she wrote that “Rural areas have had to find out what makes sense for them,”adding that “we are taking the initiative under the EDA [...] engaging potential providers as entrepreneurs and not just someone who watches your children.”
In spite of the explanations, the board appeared hesitant to move forward with the proposal. John Berends introduced two motions, one donating $25,000 to the Granite Falls area, and another creating an additional $25,000 fund available for residents across the county. Neither motion attracted support from the board, and consequently died without a vote.
Although this presents a setback for the Granite childcare initiative, Johnson told Anderson that “the door is not closed on this yet.” He promised to follow-up with County Administrator Peg Heglund to do more research and find ways to resolve some of the outstanding concerns over the proposal.