Day-care rescue plan receives OK
September 5, 2006
The wait lists for day care in Pitkin County top 100 families at some centers, said Shirley Ritter, director of Aspen’s Kids First. Elected officials from Aspen and Pitkin County agreed Tuesday to look for new options.Kids First is a tax-supported agency that provides support to parents and day-care providers throughout Pitkin County.Ritter said that it is “good news” that both city and county are on board with plans to develop facilities and service to support child care.Aspen is not your average place to raise a family, Ritter said. Young families, faced with high housing costs, the need for two incomes and long lists at local child-care centers are being forced out of the county.The planned closure of Columbine, a Basalt child-care facility, has been pushed ahead from Sept. 28 to Sept. 15. The loss of the facility, she said, makes the issue urgent. “The immediate need is for infant and toddler care,” Ritter said.”The situation is critical,” said Keith Sexton, a local parent. “People are being forced to quit jobs.”Ritter got the go-ahead from city and county officials to get a professional appraisal of the Columbine facility so that perspective buyers, private and public, can consider purchasing the facility. She asked elected officials from the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners for support to save the center or build a new one. She adds that it is easier to keep a program like Columbine running than it is to start over.Ritter received the go-ahead at Tuesday’s joint city-county meeting to explore development options.The county’s healthy community fund, which comes up for a vote on the November ballot, does not cover infant and child care. Kids First is supported through the housing/day-care fund which relies on a real estate transfer tax and sales taxes for support.”It was encouraging to know that they understand the need, and they support it,” Ritter said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.