Several Lavington residents are voicing concerns around a recently announced childcare facility to be built.
The District of Coldstream announced it received a $637,000 grant from the province on April 24. The money will fund the construction of a new facility in Lavington Park that will provide 32 new childcare spaces, but on April 28, some residents turned to Facebook to say this facility is unnecessary and talk of a petition is ongoing.
Pointing to a recently opened private childcare facility that opened in the community, one resident said this competition is unwarranted and instead will take “away our greenspace.”
Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick said he doesn’t recognize this as competition the same way he would see the district opening a lumber plant next door to Tolko. Instead, he said, he sees this in the “same realm as health care or school care.”
“Once people start using it and see the benefits of it,” he said. “I think it’s healthy for the community to draw in young families.”
Garlick said the district began its investigation into childcare needs in 2018 after hearing from Lavington residents that a childcare facility operating out of a church had closed. An anecdotal assessment was completed, but a formal needs assessment wasn’t undertaken until the district joined the City of Vernon in its Child Care Space Action Plan assessment in January 2020.
Continued input from residents underscored a need for quality childcare.
In March 2020, the findings of the formal childcare needs assessment were presented to the District of Coldstream and Vernon council. The results pointed to a lack of child care. A survey of more than 450 respondents found the greatest need for childcare spaces were in Coldstream, South Vernon and Mission and East Hill.
Then, consultant Gabbi Haas urged municipal governments to request additional funding from the provincial and federal levels to boost early childhood care training and providers.
Following a failed grant application in 2019 through the Union of BC Municipalities, the district resubmitted an application for a provincial grant that called for collaboration with a non-profit childcare provider.
The district was awarded the grant from the Childcare BC New Spaces Fund, which focuses on non-profit organizations.
Coldstream looked to Maven Lane, a “well-respected childcare non-profit organization,” the mayor said. Maven Lane will be operating the new Lavington Park location once it’s complete.
“This is a good opportunity for both of us,” the mayor said. “This is another opportunity to have a tried and tested organization providing daycare.”
“We thought this was a win-win,” Garlick said.
The application saw Maven Lane and the district guarantee a 15-year partnership, but Garlick said he’d like to see this “continue long into the future.”
The new facility does not affect taxpayers as it is provincially funded and the operators are a non-profit organization, Garlick said.
“What we’re bringing is a small parcel of land,” he said. “A fairly unutilized parcel.”
The daycare facility will be built on the north-east corner of Lavington Park facing School Road near Lavington Elementary.
“What we hope is this will actually benefit the park,” Garlick said. “I think with parks, they don’t just sit there as green spaces, they need to be used as well.”
“Kids are good users of parks,” he said. “I think a daycare is a good use of that park.”
The facility will be around the size of a small house, Garlick said. A small outdoor play area will be fenced off for children’s safety.
As for the privately-owned daycare facility, the mayor said demand for childcare can’t be guaranteed.
“I do feel sorry for the individuals if they didn’t realize the province was making a very large push to provide non-profit daycare facilities throughout the province,” Garlick said, noting some government grants are available for for-profit organizations.
“What happens with a lot of profit facilities,” he said. “They will be around for a while and then because of financial situations or leases… they disappear. Then, those parents are left wondering where they are going to put their child Monday when they have to go to work.”
This new addition, Garlick said, is a way the district can make Coldstream more affordable.
“We’re always told we should provide affordable housing,” he said. “I don’t see affordable housing where we would lower the prices in the community, but if we could enable families to allow both parents to go to work… that is a way to make it affordable to them.”
Garlick acknowledged he wished there was additional time for public input following the successful grant application.
“When we received our funding we would have liked to have had more time for information sessions,” he said. “But that fell within the COVID-19 lockdown. We couldn’t get the OK to make the funding public and get information out until very recently (April 24).”
This, he said, has cost the district several weeks that could have been used to request proposals for contractors to get work underway.
“That’s been a challenge,” he said.
“In today’s world, with what we’re facing in a pandemic, this (childcare facility announcement) should be a positive thing.”