City of Aspen childcare capacity target on track

The city of Aspen is moving forward quickly and relentlessly in its efforts to increase childcare capacity, recognizing that if parents cannot participate in the workforce, the local economy cannot. prosper.

Potential providers have responded to the city’s call to operate a new child care business on the Colorado Mountain College Aspen campus, slated to open this winter, according to Shirley Ritter, director of Children first, the municipal government sales tax funded child care program.

CMC offers a classroom to accommodate eight toddlers for free in town.

The city is currently renovating the interior and exterior space, the cost of which is estimated at $ 75,000 and will come from the Kids First fund.

The fund raises about $ 2 million a year from part of a 0.45% sales tax and child care leases operate in its yellow brick facility at affordable rates, as well. than financial assistance to families.

As potential suppliers have until Wednesday to apply for the installation of the CMC, the city is simultaneously receiving requests for proposals for an architecture, engineering and design team to develop a daycare center on land owned by the city. administration and is under development as a third phase of housing in the Burlingame Ranch subdivision.

About 30 people recently attended a pre-bid meeting, indicating that potential design teams are very interested in moving the project forward, said city manager Sara Ott.

Ott said that Ritter’s efforts to move the new child care centers forward, as well as his work at the regional and state level, are fulfilling one of the main goals of Aspen City Council.

“It not only strengthens the capacities of Kids First, but it also strengthens the capacities of the community, in places where we did not necessarily have it before and although the advocacy part has always been part of the mission of Kids First, this is a new level, the partnership with CMC, and the first time the city has taken the lead in building a second facility, ”said Ott.

Council members at their annual retreat last July identified child care as a key goal to address for next year.

“It has been amazing and a game changer,” Ritter said of the work she did with the support of the board.

They agreed that the municipal government should start looking for ways to facilitate access to childcare services with increased capacity, and the city-owned Burlingame site is the best option.

The estimated cost of an 8,345 square foot two-level daycare is about $ 8 million and could accommodate 70 children, including infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

How it is paid is something city officials will pursue with potential partnerships with employers and governments, as well as new revenue streams and other unspecified funding sources.

There are dozens of families in the valley who are on waiting lists to place their infants, toddlers and preschoolers in a limited number of daycares and any additional capacity will be helpful, Ritter said. .

“People are in desperate need of care,” she said.

Voters in the city realized the need in 1989 when they passed the sales tax to fund child care, and again in 2008 when they renewed it for 30 years.

“I think it has always been a need,” Ritter said, adding that it has now become not only a regional problem, but also a state and a national one.

Ritter, representing the city as an employer, is one of 10 groups in the state that is part of a group called Partner frameworks for investing in children (EPIC) which emphasizes child care capacity as it relates to enabling the business community to build the workforce and the economy in their communities.

She said it helped her gain the knowledge to bring them back to other community partners in the valley, like the town of Basalt and Snowmass Village, both of whom are looking for childcare opportunities.

“She plays a great regional role in strengthening the region’s ability behind the scenes to create these environments for our youngest residents,” said Ott. “I think we may be taking for granted the lasting impact what she is doing right now will have on our valley.”

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