The Ontario Early Years Centre board is transferring ownership of its daycare facility in Minden to the County of Haliburton.
County council announced the move at a special meeting Aug. 14. Council authorized the purchase of the facility for $2, giving the municipality control over the building. In June 2018, the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) nearly terminated daycare services there on a week’s notice.
But the City of Kawartha Lakes, which oversees daycare in Haliburton on behalf of the county, struck a last-minute deal to save it. Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said the municipal control should prevent that situation from happening again.
“It remains in control of the local community,” Devolin said. “This is a good day and it ensures we never have the challenge we did over a year ago.”
Lisa Tolentino knows that challenge well. Her son attended the centre’s after school program when the closure was imminent. She said it had a significant impact on the community who used the facility.
“I’m happy to see it in the hands of the county, for sure. I think it’s a good choice,” Tolentino said. “I was just really upset about the impact it had on the staff, as well as the children of the other parents.”
The property was originally donated by the Dollo family for the community.
“We feel this aligns with the original intent,” the OEYC board said in a statement. “While also enabling the County of Haliburton to be involved in the future of licensed childcare in the community.”
Devolin said this will not change the day-to-day operations of the facility. Compass Early Learning and Care manages the daycare under the oversight of the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“It’s just strictly the asset comes into possession locally, so it guarantees in perpetuity that it couldn’t go away,” he said.
OEYC executive director Pippa Stephenson said the move has been in the works since 2017 and discussions were initiated with the county in summer 2018. The board decided it no longer wanted to operate the facility due to limited resources.
“The OEYC is not a large organization,” Stephenson said. “The board had hoped that an organization dedicated to childcare would be able to offer enhanced services to families and better support to staff.”
The facility is in line for significant improvements too. It is due to get 23 new childcare spaces, with up to $750,000 in capital funding from the province, which was announced July 2018.
The province announced Aug. 19 it would soon go ahead with funding changes for new childcare spaces, which will require municipalities supply 20 per cent of the cost. Previously, the province fully funded it, but warden Liz Danielsen said this may not impact the Minden facility.
“The timing of approvals may allow the project to move forward without encountering any issues,” she said.
Tolentino said she is optimistic for the future of the facility.
“I’m hoping whatever they do is going to make things better for everyone,” she said. “I suspect it will.”