NORTH LIBERTY– A long-established North Liberty day care center will relocate, likely with some financial assistance from the city.
It just wasn’t as much as she hoped.
The owner of KinderWorld Learning and Childcare Center, which has been housed in a building on site of the Ranshaw House for over 25 years, was informed she would have to move her child care operation when the city purchased the Penn Street property in 2004 for $650,000. Since then, KinderWorld owner Missy Butcher-Evans has been renting the daycare space from the city.
While community groups have been attempting to raise funds for renovating the house into a welcome center and historic museum, Butcher-Evans has been making plans for a new center. A site plan for Butcher-Evans’s new location at 1250 Jordan Street was approved last May. Though Butcher-Evans will lease a space in the new building, she submitted a request to the council for a $10,000 forgivable loan to help ease her expenses brought on by the transition.
“I asked for assistance because my rent will increase three-fold when we get moved,” Butcher-Evans told the council during their regular meeting of Jan. 27. “It will provide a cushion until we get those (additional daycare) slots filled.”
Butcher-Evans is currently licensed for 60 children, but expects to enroll an additional 34 children in her new center. The expansion will create three new staff positions.
Council member Chris Hoffman suggested it was the city’s responsibility to help Butcher-Evans.
“She is essentially our tenant and we’re asking her to leave,” Hoffman said. “She is not moving of her own volition.”
According to Butcher-Evans, there was also a previous commitment for financial assistance from the former city administrator when the city purchased the property.
“I was in a position where either I had to get out of the business or try to figure out something for those families,” she said. “I hate to ask for help, but I know going into this I’m going to have a lot of expenses.”
Councilors Coleen Chipman, Gerry Kuhl and Jim Wozniak expressed concerns about “subsidizing” businesses.
“I don’t think most cities offer this type of service to any business that wants to expand,” said Chipman. “If we had every daycare coming to us for assistance, we’re setting a precedent.”
Two weeks later, as the council was to formally vote on the forgivable loan agreement on Feb. 24, only two council members supported Butcher-Evan’s full request.
Jim Wozniak moved to give KinderWorld $10,000, but the motion nearly died for lack of a second.
“I don’t have a problem with KinderWorld or the quality of the facility,” said council member Kuhl. “I have a principal I think we’re violating. Government should not be involved with private business, especially financially.”
The final vote was 3-1 against offering the loan, with councilor Wozniak voting in favor and councilor Hoffman absent.
But the vote did not put the issue to bed.
Council member Terry Hoffman offered an amended resolution, saying he would like to see the city return KinderWorld’s rent payments– $2,000 each month– for January and February, and waive the upcoming March payment.
“That would give her $6,000 of her money back,” Donahue said.
Because Donahue’s suggestion was not part of the meeting’s formal publicized agenda, the council could take no action last week but is expected to consider it during their next formal meeting of March 10.