The County of Haliburton hopes to protect the future of Haliburton Wee Care daycare after purchasing its facility for $770,000.

Council agreed Nov. 27 to have bylaws presented for the purchase of the County Road 21 property in Dysart et al. The municipality is buying it from the Hodgson family, who started and managed the non-profit Wee Care but want to retire. The daycare currently leases the property from the Hodgsons and will continue to under county ownership.

Chief administrative officer Mike Rutter said the City of Kawartha Lakes, which manages child care on behalf of the county, noticed the Wee Care property up for sale in 2018. He said the family is committed to Wee Care and did not want to leave it in the lurch. The municipality stepped in to buy it.

“This ensures that both day cares in the County remain in public ownership and stable ownership,” Rutter said.

The municipality also purchased the Ontario Early Years Centre daycare facility in Minden in August for $2, to ensure that daycare could continue running.

Wee Care supervisor Denise Wolm said it is a positive development.

“It’s been a great thing for us because the county is working on our behalf. They’re looking to support us in whatever way possible. It’s not going to change much for the day-to-day operation,” she said.

Wolm added she hopes the municipality can help secure provincial funding so the facility can expand and take on more children. She said they are licenced for 24 pre-schoolers and 10 toddlers but have a waiting list of approximately 30.

Wolm said management briefly explored a new location in light of the Hodgsons selling the property, but it was not a serious threat. She added the board of directors also examined purchasing the property  themselves as a non-profit but found it was not feasible.

“This is definitely the best arrangement we could possibly hope for,” she said.

The annual rental revenue for the property is $36,000, which will pay off the county’s purchase in 21 years. With interest, the county expects the annual taxpayer-funded investment will be no more than $15,000.

Rutter said the property is large enough to be the site of future development near the daycare, suggesting housing or community gardens.

Coun. Andrea Roberts commended the purchase.

“Really good day for young families in Haliburton County. I can’t image not knowing where my child is going to go to,” Roberts said. “This is sort of a forever and I think this is really forward thinking … just as much as we need doctors in our community, we need daycares.”

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