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December 10, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, December 10, 2004

Child-care center approved Child-care center approved (December 10, 2004)

Service would accommodate 100 children

By Jon Wiener

In a surprising resolution to a long-running debate over the construction of a child-care center in Rengstorff Park, the city council voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve the multimillion dollar project.

Vice Mayor Matt Neely joined pleasantly surprised supporters outside council chambers after the vote, beaming over what he called the greatest day in his two years on the council.

Council member Mary Lou Zoglin, attending her last meeting before her term ends, was the most vocal in support of the city solving the child-care shortage in Mountain View.

"We aren't as good at this as our surrounding cities," Zoglin said.

A majority of council members had appeared to indicate opposition to financing the center at a June study session. The project will cost about $3.3 million with the Packard Foundation providing a $2.8 million loan. A lease with operator Children's Creative Learning Center (CCLC) is guaranteed for the first seven years, but the city will still be left with $1.5 million in debt.

Mayor Matt Pear and Greg Perry voted against the project based on these figures. Perry suggested the money could be spent on more effective methods to increase the supply of child care without sacrificing valuable park land. He listed providing child-care subsidies to low-income residents or removing barriers to entry that can keep private centers from opening until several years after they're approved.

Council member Rosemary Stasek, also serving in her last meeting before her final term ends, said she had been sitting on the fence but was swayed by the idea of constructing a public building for this purpose.

"It just came down to, there was no substitute to the city taking a leadership position on this issue if we could do it in a fiscally responsible manner," she said.

The vote marks a decisive step by the city in attempting to close the gap between supply and demand for child-care. According to Ken Jaffe, the city's child-care consultant, there is a market for approximately 1,400 more child-care slots than are available in Mountain View.

"Literally, when people find out they're pregnant, they contact us," said Fran Durekas, founder and CEO of the learning center.

Durekas added that while the center itself won't solve the city's entire shortage, it will set a standard for high-level care and its impacts will be easy to measure.

The center has pledged to reserve 30 of its approximately 100 spaces for low-income residents. Tuition is expected to cost $6,000 per year.

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