Lebanon to hold forum on proposed city-owned child care center

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-27-2023 6:33 AM

LEBANON — The city will host a public forum on Thursday to discuss a proposal for a city-owned child care center that would provide infant and early childhood education services for up to 200 children.

City officials have said construction will be funded using money from grants and donations, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central New Hampshire, a nonprofit based in Concord, will be contracted to manage the child care services.

The center would be built on a parcel of city-owned land near Airpark Road of Route 12A in West Lebanon.

Lebanon City Manager Shaun Mulholland previously partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to open Suncook Clubhouse, a child care center in Allenstown, N.H., where Mulholland served as town manager before accepting the top administrative role in Lebanon.

Since 2021, the city has worked with a consortium that includes Vital Communities and Dartmouth College to identify solutions to the child care shortage in the Upper Valley. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Upper Valley was estimated to need an additional 2,000 additional child care openings, according to a city press release earlier this year that announced the project.

According to city administrators, a public-private partnership model would have many operating advantages over privately-owned child care programs, such as the ability to access additional revenue sources such as grants, tax credits and donations. In contrast, privately owned centers rely primarily on tuition to fund operations.

The city also would assume responsibility for the building’s maintenance and utilities to help reduce the center’s operating expenses.

The city plans to offer 51% of the child care openings to families with low to moderate incomes, or families whose total income is less than 80% of the area median — which is $115,000 for a family of four in Grafton County.

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Some Upper Valley child care providers have questioned whether the region has enough early childhood educators to adequately staff the city’s proposed facility.

The forum will include a presentation of the facility design by architectural firm Placework, of Portsmouth, N.H., and an opportunity for questions and feedback.

The forum will be held at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall.

To participate in the meeting remotely, visit the city website at LebanonNH.gov/LIVE.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.