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Several entities willing to take over Ford Childhood Enrichment Center, UCC calls it premature

Multiple entities have shown interest in taking over the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center, but officials at Umpqua Community College say any talk of potential partnerships is premature.

“Right now, the college is focused on gathering information to present to the board at its next meeting,” Umpqua spokesperson Tiffany Coleman said in an email Friday. “The college is currently following through on its fact-finding promise to the board of education. The college is searching for a way to keep the center open. We are working with a consultant starting next week.”

Michael Lasher, the superintendent of the Douglas Education Service District, said at Thursday’s board meeting that the district is one of the entities interested in helping keep the facility open.

“(UCC is) sort of engaged in their own process and not looking beyond their campus too much,” Lasher said. “I mean, they may be, but we haven’t been involved in the conversation, so we’re trying to open up the conversation to a larger group of folks.”

Lasher later clarified that The Ford Family Foundation is hoping to convene a group of people who can help keep the center open.

“I don’t know how broad they are thinking, but I’m sure the ESD will be invited,” Lasher said in an email Monday. “In the short term, we’ll probably talk to Ford about which groups to invite to the convening, who should facilitate the meeting, that sort of housekeeping. It’s not really our show, but we’re happy to try to move it along.

“Along with the rest of the folks who have an interest in early learning in our county, none of us wish to see the child care center at UCC close,” he continued. “My experience (is) that if one starts talking about a potential problem early, it’s possible to steer a course that avoids the problem altogether. Douglas ESD would like to do our part to see if there is something the community can do collectively to make sure those childcare options don’t disappear.”

Representatives from the Ford Family Foundation did not respond to a phone call or email asking for the foundation’s plans for the facility and whether they had been contacted by the college before the proposed closure of the child care center.

Coleman said that although the college is searching for a way to keep the center open as a child care facility, the other entities expressing interest have been education-related but not specifically child care facilities.

“No other entities are interested in running a child care center as a service to our students, employees and community,” Coleman wrote in an email Monday. “They have expressed interest in using the space as an educational facility for their own purposes.”

Coleman said the college cannot work with any outside entities without board approval. The college also cannot close the center without approval from its board of education.

If the college can’t keep the center open, a recommendation will be made to the board to send out a request for proposal so another entity can take over.

The next UCC board meeting is scheduled for April 10, when the board is expected to receive information on the financials and other requested information regarding the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center.

“As you know, we have a dearth of childcare options in Douglas County,” Lasher wrote. “If it could stay open and even expand its hours, it would be of more benefit to more people.”

More than 50 people were in attendance for the Feb. 13 board meeting when college administrators held a first reading on a plan to close the child care facility. Several of those people spoke up against the closing during the meeting’s public comment period.

An online petition has been signed by 265 supporters to stop the closure of the center.

“Without (the center), there will be many good, hard-working people without their jobs, parent-students unable to attend classes on campus, and the children enrolled would lose their place of learning, friendships, and communication,” the petition reads.

According to a statement by UCC President Debra Thatcher, the operational costs have exceeded revenues for several years at the child care center. Annually, the childcare center costs the college $145,000.

During the February meeting, Thatcher said the college had “reached out to different entities and no one is interested in running child care,” according to the minutes of the meeting. Thatcher said she would continue to reach out and explore other grants and possibilities.

Lasher said Douglas ESD approached the college in the fall to see if they could use a room for an Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education classroom, but he did not recall a discussion on taking over operating the child care center.

Douglas ESD has since opened its new special education classroom at Yoncalla High School.

Max Gimbel, the associate director of The Ford Institute for Community Building, was in attendance for the February meeting and said his organization would be willing to be a partner. He added that research showed closing the center would be another blow to already scarce childcare resources in the area.

The college’s board was expected to have a second reading during its March board meeting, but at the time Thatcher said more data needed to be gathered.

The Ford Childhood Enrichment Center opened in 1994 and cares for children ranging in ages from 6 months to 5 years old. It also serves as an educational space for college students. During winter term, which ended March 23, 19 college students enrolled their children in the child care center for a total of 24 children.

The college’s student newspaper, The Mainstream, quoted a statement from Provost Kasey Crabtree which was sent to staff that said: “UCC is an academic institution; we are in the business of delivering quality academic programs and related services and do not have the expertise or resources to manage the day-to-day operations of a childcare center and related liabilities.

“Plans are underway to revamp the Early Childhood Education program and move it online.”

Hansen couple wins First Citizen awards in Glide

GLIDE — When Barbara and Jay Hansen moved to Glide more than 10 years ago, they both dove headfirst into their new community. And on Saturday night, they were both recognized for their contributions to the area.

“I’m very honored,” Jay Hansen said. “I was surprised to even be nominated. It was really neat that Barbara and I got it together.”

Nancy Kreger, who earned the award in 2008, presented the honor to the Hansens, telling stories about how they both have gone above and beyond to help in the community, primarily with the Helping Hands food pantry.

“If you ever are feeling lonely, isolated, not very brave — maybe you’ve moved to a new town and don’t know anybody or your friends have moved away or drifted apart — go someplace where people are coming together to do something for other and offer to help,” Kreger said. “The other volunteers you will meet there are the most amazing, kind, generous people — like the people in this room. ... They will change your life.”

Barb Hansen helps run the food pantry by ordering, stocking, writing reports, supervising and walking clients through the facility. Kreger estimated that Barb Hansen put in almost 4,000 hours at the food pantry in the last nine years.

Jay Hansen is “truly a behind-the-scenes person,” Kreger said, and has also been helping with the food pantry since 2010. He puts out fresh produce, keeps the storeroom stocked and helps with food intake. He also helps with the wood program and “makes himself available on short notice.”

“The hours and lists of tasks don’t begin to tell the story of what this person does for our community,” Kreger said.

The Glide Community Club also awarded four Glide High School students with scholarships: Joseph DeBell, Brooke Roberts, Mashayla Belloir and Mchail Parrett.

The scholarships are given by the scholarship committee and funded by sponsors and year-long fundraisers like bingo nights at the community center.

The program for the evening included musical performances by Kay Anderson and Amanda Blair and a presentation on the Adopt-A-Highway Program, which covers more than 5 miles of highway cleanup twice a year.

Douglas County Solid Waste fee waivers eliminated, Myrtle Creek cleanup canceled

The Douglas County Solid Waste fee waiver program has been disposed of until a new formal process can be approved by the public, according to a press release from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

“That process was successful for over three and a half years. Requesters were told that they would have to apply every time they had a request, that a fee waiver was not always granted, and that they needed to have a contingency plan in place if waivers were denied or eliminated,” the press release said.

County Commissioner Chris Boice could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The fee system for the Douglas County Landfill and transfer stations was created in 2015. People were charged $3 per can and risked being fined up to $1,250 and charged with offensive littering for dumping the trash elsewhere. Shortly after, the solid waste director was delegated as the authority who would approve or deny fee waivers for public benefit.

The City of Myrtle Creek relied on the fee waiver for its annual cleanup program that’s been happening every April for more than 20 years, according to City Administrator Sean Negherbon.

“It’s a very good way to keep the city cleaned up and a lot of people look forward to it, plan for it each year,” Negherbon said. “This year, our waiver request was denied and I’m not sure exactly why.”

Negherbon said the city picks up items that are difficult to discard like old appliances, tires and furniture to help keep the city looking nice.

Every day of the week, the city crew follows a street sweeper route through and stops at the houses of people who registered to have stuff picked up. If it doesn’t qualify, they are told and not added to the list.

“Sometimes it varies a little bit if we can’t get rid of something,” Negherbon said. “We used to pick up almost anything. It’s amazing what we used to pick up. Some of the stuff back in the day was just hard for people to get rid of if they didn’t have a truck, now it’s a way to save those people a little bit of money.”

Negherbon said if the fee waiver program came back, he believes the city would try to reschedule the cleanup as soon as possible.

“It’s a shame but I understand there are changes going on,” Negherbon said. “Hopefully it can get resolved. It’s a nice service for citizens.”

The city’s public works director could not be reached for comment.

The Douglas County Commissioners removed the Solid Waste Director’s authority to approve or deny fee waivers. In January, the county took some criticism over granting a fee waiver to the Hanna family for the disposal of the Windmill Inn demolition debris, which would have cost the family almost $50,000.

“Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of public outcry related to fee waivers. During this time, there was little public support demonstrated for any aspect of the program. The sentiment seemed to be that everybody needs to pay their fair share,” the press release reads.

The commissioners also announced that the temporary storm damage wood debris fee waiver, which was implemented to help county residents clean up after the winter storm in February, would come to an end April 7.