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City council endorses new childcare facility

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen at their June 9 meeting signed a resolution in support of a Mary Johnson Children’s Center proposal for a childcare facility to serve 30 preschoolers, one that would be built on a 1.5-acre Armory Lane lot near the city’s three-year-old senior center.
Mary Johnson officials are seeking a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant to help plan a center that could serve children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. They produced a 2013 study that showed a need for such a center in the Vergennes area. Aldermen’s support will allow them to pursue that grant.
City Manager Mel Hawley said, however, that several local childcare providers at the meeting said they were concerned that because the new Mary Johnson center would not be serving infants they would be left providing infant care, which is more labor-intensive and expensive to offer.
The providers and aldermen were also concerned the study needed updating, Hawley said, and some noted, that one childcare center had opened since 2013, while the study had overlooked another provider.
Hawley and Mayor Bill Benton said aldermen want Mary Johnson officials to update the study.
“I think we just wanted to make sure that if this is going to go forward, that there is a defined need we can all agree on,” Benton said. “I don’t believe it is the role of the city council to protect the status quo in terms of childcare providers, but we do need to do our due diligence to determine what’s in the best interest of the community.”
The planning grant will also help Mary Johnson develop a building design and site plan and move through the permit process.
Also at the June 9 meeting, alderman discusses the city budget (See story here), and also:
•  Agreed to support the Vergennes Champs summer swim team, up to a point. Aldermen offered up to $2,000 of support to the team, but if coaches’ salaries and benefits exceed $2,000 more than registration fees, the team will be responsible for those costs. Aldermen will take money, if necessary, from the city’s Watershed Fund, which is dedicated to recreation.
•  Again discussed the city’s potential purchase of riverfront land next to the city docks from Bill Benton and his sister, Betsey Benton. The $30,000 handshake deal is waiting until the final details can be worked out related to a sliver of land officials discovered between that parcel and a city-owned lot that includes the mouth of Potash Brook.
Hawley said he, surveyor Tim Cowan and city attorney Jim Ouimette discovered the sliver is apparently owned by the Jackman family, including Alderwoman Lynn Donnelly. Hawley said a transfer back in 1945 was intended to transfer the land to the owners of another parcel that was later sold to the city, but the sellers and buyers were not aware there were two small parcels, not one larger one. He hopes aldermen will approve the long-planned sale once this final wrinkle is ironed out.
•  Heard from Hawley that Main Street paving will begin on June 22 from the Otter Creek bridge to City Hall. Officials hope to keep two lanes of traffic running during what Benton said would be at least a three-day process. Downtown parking will be a problem during paving, Benton said. 

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