Child care center for 50 to 60 kids, in town, being pursued

There's more good news on the child care shortage front, as the CHEDA Board OKs a loan to the Berhows for their downtown Crookston daycare, Gotta Love Kids

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    As efforts continued over the past couple of years or so to open a desperately needed, large child care center at the former Sisters of St. Joseph Marywood Residence about a mile east of Crookston on U.S. Highway 2, the biggest complaint voiced in the community was that the proposed center wasn’t located within city limits, actually in the community.

    That complaint appears on the verge of being appeased, as efforts are underway to open a child care center for as many as 50 to 60 infants, toddlers and young children in Crookston, on the north end. (The Times is aware of the location, but is not publicly identifying the proposed site at the request of stakeholders until a purchase agreement is signed.)

    The same proponents and stakeholders behind the effort to open Regal Academy Child Care Center just east of town are behind the new effort, but one big thing that has changed is the name. It’s now known as Crookston’s Little Pirates Co.

    The CHEDA Board of Directors this week approved spending $3,500 to get engineering and design work started at the site. While it’s possible that CHEDA will continue to be on the hook for the expense, Executive Director Craig Hoiseth said he expects that a grant will be forthcoming from Children’s First Finance of Bagley that will reimburse CHEDA. Hoiseth recommended that his board OK the expense so that progress doesn’t have to be halted while everyone waits for the grant.     Architectural Resources, Inc. of Hibbing has the contract to get the engineering and design work started. The first phase, for the $3,500 cost, involves drawing a base map of the facility to maximize space and meet program needs, and a preliminary cost estimate. The second phase, for $12,500, will include detailed drawings to meet building requirements, state code review coordination, bid specifications, plans, design meetings, cost estimates and a bidding review.

    Assuming grant funding comes through as expected, the CHEDA Board green-lighted moving forward with both phases.

    During the process that led up to the selection of the Marywood Residence as the home for Regal Academy, Hoiseth said an “exhaustive” search for potential sites within Crookston was conducted. Marywood was eventually chosen, he recalled, but two in-town sites were preferred more but they weren’t available. Now one is available, Hoiseth said, and its purchase is being pursued by the advisory board that’s been working to secure the child care center for the past couple of years.

Loan for Berhow day care center

    The CHEDA Board also approved a $15,000 loan to Janelle and Mark Berhow of Crookston, who are looking to open Gotta Love Kids Daycare downtown, in the location on Fourth Street on the former Crookston Central High School property that was most recently home to New Paths Area Learning Center. The portable classroom space that looks like a rambler home needs renovations, including the construction of a kitchen, exterior improvements, and the addition of an outdoor playground.

    Janelle Berhow, a longtime member of the Crookston Times staff and current multimedia sales manager, operated a home daycare from 2000 to 2006.

    The loan terms are for seven years at 2% interest.

    The Berhows have already gotten the necessary approvals from the City of Crookston for their initiative. Next up is closing the deal on the purchase of the property, for $75,000.

    On her own, Berhow would be licensed to care for 12 children at the site. She’s talked about potential growth in the future; specifically, she would look into the feasibility of adding staff so that she can add evening and Saturday hours of operation.

    The money for the loan will come from CHEDA’s “Community Investment Fund,” which was born when the city council two years ago allocated $350,000 for CHEDA to invest in various strategic initiatives. With Crookston’s shortage of licensed child care slots being identified as the community’s most critical problem, $50,000 of the $350,000 was subsequently earmarked to boost child care efforts in the community.

    The $15,000 loan to the Berhows would be the first draw from that $50,000. Hoiseth said their payments would go back into the $50,000 fund.

Finally some activity

    CHEDA Board President Kurt Heldstab made a point to mention, and happily so, that while things had been pretty quiet of late on the child care front in Crookston even though the shortage still exists, the board was able in one meeting two help two child care initiatives advance.

    Hoiseth took that opportunity to mention that as state legislators last week debated the bonding bill that they eventually approved with a $1.9 billion bottom line, the state’s child care shortage was a popular topic of conversation. “But then they didn’t fund it,” he said. “But they talk a great game.”