County looks to facilitate purchase of Yarker Family School for Stone Mills Township

Daycare provider will pay rent to reimburse taxpayers

Adam Bramburger

Beaver Staff

Lennox and Addington County plans to front the money for Stone Mills Township to acquire the former Yarker Family School for continuing use for library and children’s services.

During County council’s working session meeting last Wednesday evening, Prince Edward-Lennox and Addington Social Services director Marlynne Ferguson told councillors the County expects the Limestone District School Board to declare the building surplus by the end of this month.

“At the Aug. 29 meeting of the school board, staff informed trustees the property would be listed for sale and would be listed for preferred agencies,” Ferguson explained.

She said once that happens, organizations on a list of preferred agencies have a 90-day wind of time to indicate whether they’re interested in obtaining the property. The board, then, must deal with expressions of interest and formulate plans to sell the building.

Ferguson said as a manager of child services, Lennox and Addington County is fourth in priority among organizations on the board’s list. If the Limestone board does not have a need to use the building for another purposes, the other three school boards — the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board and public and separate French-language boards — have first priority.

Stone Mills is 12th on the list and while the township would like to obtain the building to continue to host a library branch and to improve daycare services locally, it might not be in the running itself.

“We’re looking for direction to be able to express our interest and service manager. If we don’t, in all likelihood, one of the other parties listed above Stone Mills could receive the property ahead of them.”

Ferguson said the County could purchase the school and rent space to the Lennox and Addington Resources For Children for a daycare service and its rent would be paid back to the County until Stone Mills’ debt was paid off and it could own the building outright.

The purchase money, she said, could come from the County’s $1.1-million unconditioned child care capital fund, which Ferguson said is available to encourage renovations and purchases that enhance programs that serve families and children.

“The unconditional funding has been used for multiple renovations and purchases. Agencies have a chance to pay it back and we have been paid back. It’s a perpetual fund that allows agencies that don’t have the $200,000 or $500,000 up front that allows them to have that capital investment they need.”

Prompted by a question from Stone Mills deputy reeve John Wise, the County’s chief administrative officer explained the deal would help the township as the County’s library system requires lower-tier municipalities to own buildings for libraries. Also, the township has partnered with the school board to house the library in the school since 2007 and it has paid for heating, networking and maintenance of the library facility. Orchard said the County had a verbal commitment from the board that it would honour an agreement it had with the township to sell the building for 50 per cent of the market value due to what it has already paid.

“We would fund the purchase at 50 per cent of the market value, LARC would pay us back and eventually the entire building would be owned by the lower tier. You would be the landlord,” Orchard said to Wise. “ We would need to get our money back for County taxpayers. As LARC pays that money back, it will be sure. You will have that building and you’ll provide us with a library space to run programs.”

Wise asked if the County knew that LARC was committed to the project.

Orchard replied LARC was “tickled and excited” about the space given the space presently housing its daycare program in Camden East. The infant program is on the second floor atop a Victorian-style staircase.

“If you can imagine carrying scrawny little ones upstairs, it’s not ideal for the purpose,” she said.

By contrast, due to a 2014 addition to build a Kindergarten room, the Yarker Family School already has small-sized fixtures that would suit a daycare and it also has an attractive outdoor space for programming.

Napanee’s Gord Schermerhorn wondered how many children had to enrol in the program to pay off costs.

Ferguson replied the program in Camden East already has 29 children participating and another 45 on a waitlist. She said the optimal population for the Kindergarten space is 49 children, but there are other parts of the school that could be used to accommodate additional programs. Orchard agreed the move would allow LARC to expand its services in Stone Mills.

“They could take their whole waitlist, plus their existing participants, which would be great for families,” she said, adding some families have had to take children to two different daycares due to capacity issues.

Ferguson added the Camden East-Yarker areas has one of the fastest growing needs for children’s services.

Meanwhile, Ferguson said PELASS continues to discuss the idea of a hub in Amherstview, another area where the need for children’s services is outpacing demand. She told council the County has talked with Loyalist Township about the inclusion of a daycare facility, EarlyON drop-in programming for children 0-6, and the relocation of social services offices currently located at Manitou Drive as part of a hub concept at W.J. Henderson Arena. The township has committed to conducting a feasibility study at the site.

Regardless of the decision from Loyalist, Ferguson said the County will build a daycare in Amherstview as it’s been allocated $1.5 million from the province to do so to expand services. With a deadline to be operational Dec. 31, 2020, she added PELASS is looking at not only the Henderson site, but also a school site.

Staff had also applied for funding to build EarlyON programming space in Amherstview, but its request was turned down. Due to perceived need, however, Ferguson recommended if the feasibility study is favourable, council should investigate using the unconditional child care capital to construct the space at the hub location.

Council will receive detailed reports on financing both hub models for consideration at a later date.

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