The Estherville Lincoln Central Board of Education Monday night approved a $30,000 offer from A Child's World daycare center for the former McKinley School building.
For the past several years, the daycare has been the major rental tenant in the building, along with Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc. which made a $40,000 offer. UDMO also leases space there for the Early Head Start program.
It was concern of A Child's World getting "squeezed out" out of space that led a number of persons to lend their voices of support to the daycare.
Dawn Webb was first to lend her support to Tara Pyawasit, owner of A Child's World, saying it was important to have a large daycare in town.
Agreeing was Ryan Ross who said A Child's World was caring for 90 children, allowing parents to live in Estherville - something that helped the community tax base. Ross said maintaining private ownership would create a property tax base.
The school district currently pays property taxes on the portion of McKinley occupied by the daycare.
Pyawasit thanked the board for its patience in the matter.
Jamie Whitney, UDMO executive director, said the organization intended to commit to a long-term lease to A Child's World for the space it's using now. "UDMO has no wish or desire to displace any childcare."
Pyawasit said she was told by a UDMO employee that the organization would take more space and her concern was that she wouldn't have the same capacity she does now. She said she has 100 children coming this fall with 54 on a waiting list.
Connie Siebenbruner, UDMO early childhood program director, said the organization has two classrooms in Demoney rented for Head Start and two for Early Head Start at the McKinley building. She said UDMO intended to keep its current arrangement at McKinley.
"We have made a substantial investment in that building," Siebenbruner said, adding that UDMO would like to remain in Estherville.
The question came up as to whether UDMO
would be paying property taxes. Whitney said as a private nonprofit
UDMO would file for an exemption.
Board member Kathy Cornwall asked Pyawasit about her intention regarding UDMO.
"They've taken more space and more space," Pyawasit said. "I don't know what to believe."
"It's that security thing," Ross said of his concerns that A Child's World get the building.
Cornwall asked Pyawasit if she would keep the same arrangement UDMO has with the district for Early Head Start.
"That is my short-term offer," Pyawasit said. "I can tell you that for the next year they will be there."
Two more persons expressed concerns. One man said there are more families all the time needing daycare and another said if the daycare were forced to leave he would have to send his kids to three different daycares.
When it came time for the board to make its decision at the regular meeting, superintendent Tara Paul said A Child's World had the first right of offer.
Even with the lower offer, according to its lease A Child's World had first right of refusal and could have raised the ante to $40,000, meeting the UDMO offer. However, the selling price was but one factor. A Child's World would pay property taxes on the portion of the building it uses while UDMO could file for an exemption as a nonprofit corporation for the portion of the building it used.
Cornwall asked for clarification of property taxes on the building.
Paul said the district pays taxes on the building because it's making money - the same scenario A Child's World would fall under if it bought the building.
Whitney said UDMO would also pay property taxes on any portion of the building it rented out.
Addressing one of Pyawasit's concerns that she was being squeezed out, board member Michelle McCoy said she didn't see a document in which UDMO would remain at the current amount of space it's using now in the building.
When it came to a vote, the board unanimously approved selling the building to A Child's World.
Later outside the meeting, Whitney clarified that the reason UDMO had made an offer on the building was that the school was selling it and that the organization wanted to maintain the security of its programs. He said UDMO has invested a little under $200,000 to date in the building and that it had made the bid to preserve that investment.
Whitney also addressed Pyawasit's concerns that she was getting squeezed out.
"We don't understand where that was coming from," Whitney said. "We don't feel that we were given ample opportunity to explain our position."
"The investments we made in that building have been used by A Child's World," said Siebenbruner.
"It was just as vital for us to continue out relationship with them," Whitney said. He said UDMO plans to stay in the building "tentatively".
Whitney said Pyawasit knew over a year ago UDMO planned to make an offer on the building.
Siebenbruner said UDMO currently has 36 children in Early Head Start at McKinley and 34 in Head Start at Demoney.