Crookston Mayor Guy Martin, speaking to a conference room full of people who have spent many months trying to make reality a large child care center that would put a big dent in the town’s dire shortage of licensed slots for infants and children, said last week that there might be viable buildings within city limits that could house such a center.

    The mayor attended the discussion in the wake of a tour by the same group in early February of the former Sisters of St. Joseph Marywood Residence/Glenmore Recovery Center building approximately a mile east of Crookston, a tour that seemed to indicate that the building and grounds could be ideal for a non-profit center, which would be run by current home child care provider Erika Leckie, for up to as many as 80 to 100 infants and children.

    After news stories were published on the tour and the prospects for the building east of town being home to what would be known as Regal Academy Child Care Center, Martin said he’d received a dozen or so calls from Crookston residents who said they did not want local taxpayer dollars being invested in something located outside of the community. The mayor said it’s a legitimate concern.

    After being told by the group that many potential sites within Crookston had over the past year or so been researched and/or toured and determined to not be viable – whether it’s capacity shortcomings, a lack of green space and outdoor areas for children, or overwhelming renovation costs – Martin said the group might need to “look outside the box” to find a spot in Crookston for the child care center.

    Maureen Hams, a longtime child care expert at Tri-Valley Opportunity Council, responded that she thought the group had been considering options “outside the box” for some time, but if they’d missed a potential option within city limits they were open to looking into it.

    The question being posed here today is, what if the “outside the box” solution is, in fact, a mile outside city limits?

    This is a building situated on beautiful grounds, and it’s undergone extensive renovations twice in the past 15 years or so. It has a full commercial kitchen that’s essentially ready to be used today. Maybe most important of all, it has an owner in developer Jeff Evers, who says he got the building for an incredible price and he is ready to do what he can within reason to make the child care center a reality. 

    Name a building in Crookston that could be home to a child care center with up to 100 infants and children that could undergo the necessary renovations for a cost in the low six figures.

    If you make a list of pros and cons regarding the former Marywood residence as a child care center and your only “con” is that it’s located a mile from town, you simply cannot dismiss it as not only a strong possibility, but the strongest possibility by far, to date, for the child care center being envisioned.

    There are, obviously, many hurdles to be cleared no matter where a child care center of this scope might be located. Finances related to its long-term revenue and expense budgets and if it would need ongoing financial support is a massive question to be answered. Finding quality, qualified staff is another major challenge.

    But this group has done a great deal of work largely behind the scenes for some time now and they deserve a tremendous amount of credit, and credibility. A site needs to be picked soon, and it looks like they’ve found a good one. If wary city officials steer them away from that location in favor of a site within Crookston that will cost far more to renovate, a city council and new mayor who have repeatedly sent signals that first and foremost they’re going to be especially frugal with taxpayer dollars is going to face some difficult questions.