News of private day care changes the game
In a sudden change of course, Town of Slave Lake council decided last week not to purchase a building on Main St. It’s the one the town had hoped to use partly for a new child care operation, in response to what council understood to be a dire need in the community.
The deal for the building, as reported, was apparently already done. All that was needed was for council to approve the required borrowing bylaw, which had passed first reading in November of last year.
It didn’t happen. After an energetic debate at the Jan. 23 council meeting, the bylaw went down to defeat on second reading.
So…no building purchase, and no additional daycare spaces – at least not ones facilitated by the town.
What appears to have changed several councillors’ minds was the news that a private operator was launching a daycare business. A story on it appeared in the Jan. 10, 2024 Lakeside Leader, and it seems to have been enough to cause several councillors to reconsider the pros and cons of borrowing of $685,000 for the building purchase.
There’s no rush now, said Councillor Shawn Gramlich, who had been in favour of buying the building, but now wasn’t.
“I would rather make a plan and build a proper facility.”
Having this building won’t stop us from doing that, observed Councillor Steve Adams, one of the councillors who was for continuing as planned. Also, “there’s no way you could build a building for that price.”
Councillor Brice Ferguson had also changed positions on the issue.
“I don’t think we should be in competition with private industry,” he said.
Mayor Frankie Ward was for going ahead with the purchase. She pointed to the waiting list for the Legacy Daycare, which is reported to be very long, and reminded council of what they’ve heard from employers about the lack of spaces making recruitment and retention difficult.
Ward has personal experience with the difference daycare availability can make.
Nine years ago, she said, if I hadn’t found a space for my child, “I would have had to leave the community.”
Ferguson suggested the waiting list information isn’t reliable. Let’s wait and see what happens to it when the new private daycare is open (expected to be in March), said Gramlich.
Ward’s and Adams’ arguments failed to move their colleagues. The vote was 5 – 2 against giving second reading to the borrowing bylaw, effectively killing the building purchase.