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Charles City’s TLC child care gets another $750,000 from state for new location renovation

Charles City's TLC child care gets another $750,000 from state for new location renovation
This is the basic layout planned for the TLC space in the North Grand Building. The Charles City child care received another $750,000 grant from the state this week to be used toward renovation costs. Press file photo
By Bob Steenson,

What could be better than getting a huge financial grant for your project? How about getting another one less than a year later.

TLC: The Learning Center in Charles City received word this week that it has been selected for a second round of state funding designed to expand child care options in Iowa.

Combined with other grants and donations, the money should just about cover the total costs of construction involved in TLC renovating and moving into part of the Charles City school district’s North Grand Building, said TLC Director Pam Ost.

The state announced Wednesday that TLC will receive another Future Ready Iowa Child Care Challenge Award — $605,000 from the Investing in Iowa’s Child Care fund, and $145,000 in a Child Care Challenge Award, for a total of $750,000.

Last March, TLC received $775,000 in the state’s first round Future Ready Iowa Child Care Challenge Award — $750,000 from the Iowa Department of Human Services and another $25,000 in a Child Care Challenge Award.

Ost said the additional grant will absorb the increased costs that are coming into the project.

“The initial cost of The GRAND Plan project was $1.3 million. The cost of the GRAND Plan is now $1.8 million,” she wrote in the grant application. “This difference in project costs is material availability and cost increase; labor price increase due to demand and a 6% inflation cost increase comparing this year to last year.”

Ost said the TLC board had its first pre-construction meeting this week with its contractor, Woodruff Construction of Waterloo, and with project architect Dan Levi of Levi Architecture of Cedar Falls, and they’re going through the numbers.

“But we think that for the majority of the construction portion of the process, the gap has been filled,” she said.

Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin on Jan. 26 and renovation is scheduled to be finished in May.

“One of my hopes is that we don’t have to close for even one day to move from this location to that location,” Ost told the Press Thursday, speaking from the organization’s current location in the North Iowa Community Action building on Jackson Street.

“We may be taking at least the first two, three weeks of June to begin to move over the non-essential pieces that we need for daily care, that we provide for the children, and to also get the rooms set the way that they need to be for the specific age group,” she said.

“We’re probably looking at full occupation of the new location the first week in July. I don’t want to interrupt people’s Fourth of July celebrations, so we’ll probably have a full opening after that date,” she said.

Asked about concerns over supply line delays for materials, Ost said they had been working with Woodruff and Levi to plan ahead for that.

“Because we’ve been working with them so long, they have been very aware and we have been working toward filling that gap,” she said. “We were able to order some of the pieces from the first grant funds that we received, prior to increased costs Jan. 1.”

Ost said in some cases they had to change their choices on items, for example picking a color that was more available than others, “but not in quality by any means.”

“They’ve been very good about keeping up with some of those product availabilities that we needed to jump upon, when we needed to jump. I feel like we’re in a good position to truly have everything that we’re looking at needing for that opening,” she said.

One of the benefits of the move to the North Grand Building will be the ability to about double the capacity of children they can care for, she said.

They are at capacity now in their current location, which is around 90 kids, depending on the age mix.

“We are already having families that are reaching out to us and we’re getting their applications completed so even though they may not currently be at the center because we’ve reached capacity for the rooms, they will be included in that initial population when we’re over at the new location,” Ost said.

She said the reality of the project is hitting home now.

“I think we are all just at the point where it is truly beginning, the very visual portion of it,” she said. “I think that will solidify what we’ve been working for since Jan. 19, 2019, when our first conversations began with (Charles City schools Superintendent) Mike Fisher, to be at that point where now we’re that LEGO set that’s going to be put together.

Ost said the community had really stepped up to back the GRAND Plan move to the North Grand Building.

She mentioned a $10,000 grant that was received Wednesday evening from the Floyd County Community Foundation that will go toward building a commercial kitchen at the center, splitting the proceeds of the Rotary Radio Auction that will be held Feb. 5, a $500 donation from the Elks Lodge that TLC will be receiving next week.

“We have so many community partners that are stepping up and saying, ‘We want to help, we want to be a part of this movement forward with you as well.’ That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing,” Ost said.

That money, including a $2,750 donation from the Theisen’s Foundation, will come in handy as the move actually begins, and they find all the small things that they need that are part of any move.

“People have been very generous. I’m continuing to write grants. We have a playground that I’m still needing some additional funding for, and so it’s those kinds of things that I’m still writing those grants for and looking for,” she said.

“Being a nonprofit, the grants that will be written from this point forward, luckily, will be able to replenish that on an ongoing basis instead of having to do local letters to the community and so forth. Not that we still don’t love those people’s commitment to TLC, but we won’t have to depend on them as we were depending here,” she said.

“The first year of business is going to be interesting, I think, and very productive, and I just can’t wait to get started. The staff is excited. The board is excited. I think the community is finally seeing and will be able to see what we’ve been working on and what the end product is going to look like,” Ost said.

“The entire community will be invited to the open house, and we’ll probably have multiple so that people have the opportunity to come in and see what the new facility looks like and what that partnership with the school is.”

The latest state grant to TLC is part of nearly $37 million in child care grants Gov. Kim Reynolds office announced this week. The money will create nearly 5,200 new child care slots across Iowa, as well as continuing to support projects that were previously funded, like TLC.

“I am thrilled to be able to make this substantial investment to expand access to child care for working families,” Reynolds said. “Projects funded through this program will help alleviate the burden of finding child care for families and give more Iowans the opportunity to return to the workforce while create a lasting impact on children, parents, and communities all throughout the state.”

Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of households where both parents work outside the home, the governor’s office said.

However, 23 percent of Iowans (35 percent of those in rural areas) live in areas lacking an adequate supply of child care. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Federation estimates that this child care shortage costs the state’s economy nearly $1 billion annually in lost tax revenue, worker absence and employee turnover.

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