Neighborhood House 2-14-19

The former Neighborhood House day care building on 81 Wall St. in Auburn. CCC plans to buy the facility and use it for child care.

AUBURN — Cayuga Community College is buying a shuttered former Auburn day care staple under a plan to expand the college's child care program.

CCC's board of trustees approved the $250,000 purchase agreement of the former Neighborhood House building on 81 Wall St. at a board meeting Thursday. The day care had been active for over 100 years before shutting down in 2016 amid financial struggles.

CCC has been arranging the acquisition with Five Star Bank. The board and Cayuga County Legislature approved a capital project focused on growing the college's child care services in December. CCC is seeking $500,000 from the state for the efforts, while the college's Faculty-Student Association had previously donated that same amount toward the project. If the project gains the state funding, CCC plans to start renovations by the summer with an eye on opening the building by late 2019 or by 2020. 

CCC President Brian Durant said after the meeting that $250,000 would go toward buying the building, while CCC may direct up to $800,000 in renovations toward the facility. The revamped building is set to include two new classrooms plus cameras and other security measures to the building's inside and outside, according to a news release on the purchase. The college is looking to bring in approximately 30 more students through the new acquisition. The county Legislature had previously approved the purchase of the Neighborhood House building, Durant said. He said after the meeting that if everything goes well, CCC hopes to close on the Wall Street property "in the coming weeks."

He said the college has been expanding its child care services over the years, and it now serves over 80 students in its Cayuga Community College Child Care Center.

He said that the college anticipates it will look to hire additional staff to meet the increased need due to the renovated facility.

Children of community members, CCC students and staff members are currently served by the center, which is actually housed in several different sites throughout the college's Auburn campus. Durant said that all of the college's child care services will be moved to the new building once it opens.

Costs for services "will continue to be evaluated independently from this initiative," he said.

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"We know it will be a change, but we're also hopeful that the quality of the facility, the services we're going to be able to continue to offer, that all families will be highly satisfied with the new facility," he said. "We're excited about it and we believe it's a great step forward."

Lori Schakow, executive director of the nonprofit Child Care Solutions, which has locations in Auburn and Syracuse, said she believes there is a child care crisis in the area. She said she was glad to hear that CCC was planning on meeting more of the need.

Schakow estimates all of the state-approved child care facilities in Cayuga County are meeting only 22 percent of the local child care need. She said there were an estimated 8,654 children in Cayuga County who are in need of child care. As of January 2019, there were 1,893 available spots from licensed or registered providers, Schakow said.

As of January 2019, there were 59 licensed child care providers, down from the 100 in January 2012, she said, noting facilities have had problems finding and keeping qualified staff.

She said child care issues have economic repercussions.

"It has a huge economic impact for the community. Without high-quality child care, people, particularly moms, are less likely to be employed," Schakow said.

The more available child care there is, the more likely parents are to look for employment, she said. She said she was heard employers say that they have had problems finding employees, which she believes can be attributed to a lack of child care.

"We're in a very sad state of affairs," Schakow said.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.