County of Haliburton buys Wee Care
By Chad Ingram
The County of Haliburton is purchasing Wee Care, the daycare facility along County Road 21 just outside Haliburton Village, meaning when the deal closes, both licensed childcare centres within the county will be owned by the upper-tier government.
County councillors approved the purchase during a Nov. 27 council meeting. As chief administrative officer Mike Rutter explained, the owners of the property, members of the Hodgson family who for many years had been involved in the operation of the facility, intended to sell the property to contribute to their retirement, but did not want to leave the daycare in a precarious position. After an unsuccessful search for an alternative location for the facility, the owners took the property off the market.
The county then entered negotiations for the purchase of the 3.5 acre property and its building, appraised at $800,000. Rutter said a building inspection indicated the roof of the facility would need to be replaced in the near future, and a purchase price of $770,000 was negotiated. An offer was submitted and accepted in late October, with the deal set to close in early December.
“This ensures that both [licensed] daycares within the county stay under public ownership,” Rutter said.
During the summer, county council voted to purchase the licensed daycare centre in Minden from the Ontario Early Years Centre for $2. Since a kerfuffle in the spring of 2018 that nearly resulted in that facility's closure, it has been operated by Compass Early Learning and Care.
Bringing Wee Care under county ownership will avoid any similar precariousness around its future, and the county, as new landlord, is also entering into a 10-year lease agreement with Wee Care for its continued operation of the centre. The county will pay cash for the property out of its reserves, repaying itself with the $36,000 in annual rent it will receive from the daycare operator during the next 21 years.
“It is recommended that an interest rate be paid similar to what could have been earned should the funds remain invested,” a report from Rutter read. “It is expected that the annual taxpayer funded investment will be no more than $15,000.”
“The property has a fair amount of vacant land,” Rutter told councillors, suggesting the county could use that property for some other purpose in the future, including affordable housing or community gardens. “There are lots of opportunities.”
Councillors quickly and unanimously supported the purchase.
“This is a really good day for young families in Haliburton County,” said Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts. “Just as much as we need doctors in our community . . . . we need daycare.”