ROCHELLE — City officials are still endeavoring to help get a daycare facility back in town after Kishwaukee Family YMCA Child Care Center at 1010 N. 15th St. closed last year, Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said.
Early in the summer, Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows said track was being laid to open a daycare run by an outside operator at the recently-closed May School with the help of the elementary school district, but Fiegenschuh said last month that that option may be off the table.
Recent talks have involved the city helping to create a 501c3 nonprofit due to high costs of starting a for profit daycare, Fiegenschuh said.
“It’s a huge issue for our employers in the community and more importantly for people in our community who have kids,” Fiegenschuh said. “And the closure of that daycare center directly impacted some of our employees, so I know first hand its impact. We’re working hard to try to find a solution.”
Fiegenschuh said last week that he believes it is the city’s job to help find a way to solve the daycare problem. But he does not want the city running the daycare.
“And we’ve been at the forefront,” Fiegenschuh said. “It’s been a frustrating process because every time we think we have a solution, there’s another roadblock. It wasn’t our daycare center. And as far as I know, the city has never given money to the daycare center. It was always self-sufficient through grants and community donations. Maybe the city helped establish it way back in the day, but we weren’t subsidizing it on an annual basis.”
There are a lot of costs involved with getting a building and getting a daycare center up and running, Fiegenschuh said. After looking at the books from some daycare centers, he said they don’t often make a lot of money and that daycares are more services than profit centers.
Getting a daycare center back in town is something that city staff “spends a lot of time on,” Fiegenschuh said.
“When that place closed, Mayor Bearrows had it right on his radar and he said we have to find a way to get it back open,” Fiegenschuh said. “And I can’t speak for the entire council, but I think it would say the same thing, we need that in our community. We just don’t want to run it.”
Fiegenschuh said right now there is “a ton of” money available through federal COVID-19 funds available to help daycares which could create “even more opportunity.”
“But again, we have to find somebody to run the thing,” Fiegenschuh said. “That’s been difficult. That’s why you want to make sure you’re very diligent and you do it the right way and you don’t set something up that’s destined to fail. Because that doesn’t serve anybody.”
The need for the daycare reaches further than Rochelle residents and those that live out of town and work here would use it, Fiegenschuh said. Based on what he’s seen, he believes a daycare would fill up “pretty quickly.”
The city manager’s biggest concern with a future daycare facility in town is the possibility of another state budget impasse that could tie up funds that reimburse places like daycare centers that are providing social services. That happened from 2015-2017.
The continued efforts to get a facility back in town may require a fundraising effort, Fiegenschuh said.
“There are a lot of people who want it and need it,” Fiegenschuh said. “And if we needed to do a fundraiser, I would hope some of those people would be right there helping us go out and raise funds for it. Because it’s going to be a community effort to get this thing done.”