By Chad Ingram
The County of Haliburton is purchasingWee Care the daycare facility along County Road 21 just outsideHaliburton Village meaning when the deal closes both licensedchildcare centres within the county will be owned by the upper-tiergovernment.
County councillors approved thepurchase during a Nov. 27 council meeting. As chief administrativeofficer Mike Rutter explained the owners of the property members ofthe Hodgson family who for many years had been involved in theoperation of the facility intended to sell the property tocontribute to their retirement but did not want to leave the daycarein a precarious position. After an unsuccessful search for analternative location for the facility the owners took the propertyoff the market.
The county then entered negotiationsfor the purchase of the 3.5 acre property and its building appraisedat $800000. Rutter said a building inspection indicated the roof ofthe facility would need to be replaced in the near future and apurchase price of $770000 was negotiated. An offer was submitted andaccepted in late October with the deal set to close in earlyDecember.
“This ensures that both [licensed]daycares within the county stay under public ownership” Ruttersaid.
During the summer county council votedto purchase the licensed daycare centre in Minden from the OntarioEarly Years Centre for $2. Since a kerfuffle in the spring of 2018that nearly resulted in that facility's closure it has been operatedby Compass Early Learning and Care.
Bringing Wee Care undercounty ownership will avoid any similar precariousness around itsfuture and the county as new landlord is also entering into a10-year lease agreement with Wee Care for its continued operation ofthe centre. The county will pay cash for the property out of itsreserves repaying itself with the $36000 in annual rent it willreceive from the daycare operator during the next 21 years.
“ It is recommendedthat an interest rate be paid similar to what could have been earnedshould the funds remain invested” a report from Rutter read. “Itis expected that the annual taxpayer funded investment will be nomore than $15000.”
“ Theproperty has a fair amount of vacant land” Rutter toldcouncillors suggesting the county could use that property for someother purpose in the future including affordable housing orcommunity gardens. “There are lots of opportunities.”
Councillorsquickly and unanimously supported the purchase.
“ Thisis a really good day for young families in Haliburton County” saidDysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts. “Just as much as we need doctorsin our community . . . . we need daycare.”