No child care in Dayton boosts community efforts to solve a big economic problem |

DAYTON — It has been two years since any licensed child care has been available in this town, according to community leaders.

“It’s a crisis,” said Belinda Larsen, executive director of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a need – not a want, and the community needs to address this crisis.”

A public forum addressing the complete lack of child care in Columbia County was held last week at the county’s fairgrounds in an effort to have an open discussion with community members about the actions being taken. to solve the problem.

The lack of child care creates a burden on the local economy because some parents cannot work without available child care. The crisis has left many businesses understaffed, and city leaders are scrambling to find a solution.

The panel of community leaders – some of whom are members of a task force to address this issue – took the stage and talked about things like finding a suitable facility that could be used to set up a child care centre.

People also read…

It was a chance to provide education and information and clear up any confusion about the funding and operations of any potential center, according to forum moderator and former state representative Terry Nealey.

Leaders considered several local buildings, but with most of Dayton’s structures outdated, the cost of bringing them up to code for a daycare center is financially out of reach.

About 70 people packed the fairground pavilion and about 30 more joined via Zoom.

Residents were allowed to pose questions to the panel and voice their concerns.

The Columbia County Health System is the largest employer in the county and is taking the lead in addressing the issue. Administrators there are leading a task force to find a suitable location, as having a site would help in seeking grants and other funding.

Local grant programs have already started to bring in money. The Warren Fund gave $7,500 earlier this month to the health system for childcare. The Dayton-Columbia County Washington Fund also donated $10,000 to the health system.

Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire is facilitating funding to purchase and renovate a current building, but says options are limited at this time.

“The cost of operating a daycare is very high due to the national standards and regulations in place that are required to operate a daycare,” McGuire said.

According to a recent child care study, there is a need for 70 spaces in Columbia County, and McGuire said a new daycare could initially accommodate 42 children of varying ages, including infant care. .

So far, the Columbia County health system has received federal, state and private donations totaling $658,500.

According to McGuire, the funds can only be used for the purchase, renovation and upgrade of a building that would meet state standards to operate a daycare center.

The standards include certain square footage and bathroom design requirements.

“That amount is probably less than what would be needed to buy and renovate a building,” McGuire said. “With rising construction costs and inflationary pressures on labor and materials, estimates for a new facility hover around $1.6 million.”

Even after a building could be secured and remodeled for a daycare, there would be the next challenge of the operational costs of running the facility.

Dayton is at a crossroads between economic development and health and child care, the hospital’s CEO said.

Besides the economic impact, the lack of child care also contributes to deteriorating health outcomes over time, and Columbia County ranks near the bottom of the state for healthy outcomes for residents. .

“There are studies that link high-quality child care with better academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and better long-term success,” McGuire said. “And we want that for our community.”

Columbia County Sheriff Joe Helm joined the panel group via Zoom and said he’s seen firsthand how the lack of childcare has affected his department.

“From a law enforcement perspective, we’ve seen a lot of child neglect when responding to house calls,” Helm said. “We see children in situations of neglect due to a lack of childcare, which must be done legally.”