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Support for child care center is necessary

Webster County doesn’t have enough spaces for kids that need care

To experts in the field, Webster County is a child care desert. This desert has nothing to do with sand, however.

Just as a desert is an open and empty space, Webster County is open and empty when it comes to available positions in programs for children who need care while their parents are at work.

The latest figures from the group Linking Families and Communities are stark. The group has found that there are 1,743 spaces in child care programs in Webster County. That actually sounds impressive until you learn that there are 4,673 kids in the county who need child care.

A child care desert has been defined as a place where there are three or more children for every space in a child care program. Webster County fits that description.

That’s why it is a good thing that the City Council is moving to support Childcare Discovery Center as it seeks to build a new facility.

Childcare Discovery Center has been located for decades in a strip mall at 2329 First Ave. S. The site was bought last year by Nestle Purina PetCare, which has a plant immediately to the south. Faced with the necessity of having to move, David and Tammy McNeil, the owners of the business, have picked a site near 14th Avenue North and 32nd Street as the location for a new 16,400 square foot building.

To support that effort, the council is now working through a process that will enable it to use tax increment financing to reimburse the business for up to $600,000 of the costs of constructing the new building.

To be clear, the city will not be handing the business a check for $600,000. Instead, that amount will be gradually paid out over a number of years after the new facility is completed.

Webster County is already short of child care opportunities. If Childcare Discovery Center could not relocate and continue in business, the resulting shortage of child care spaces would be catastrophic to both local families and the economy.

That is why it is vital for the city government to provide whatever help it can for this project.

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