Mayor Bill Dingwall and the rest of council put on their seasonal best for the Tuesday night council meeting.

Mayor Bill Dingwall and the rest of council put on their seasonal best for the Tuesday night council meeting.

Daycare can stay at Pitt Meadows rec centre

Council decides to change lease with Discovery Playhouse

The Discovery Playhouse Daycare in Pitt Meadows will be allowed to stay at the Family Recreation Centre for the foreseeable future.

The past council had approved a lease agreement that would end in two years, but the new council will allow the daycare facility to continue to operate beyond September 2020.

Woo hoo. That’s my reaction,” said the facility manager, Rachel Hess. “It’s great news.”

She did not have any details about a new lease and will meet next week to discuss them. But she heard council’s decision at Tuesday night’s meeting and was heartened by it.

“As long as mayor [Bill Dingwall] and council feels that way, I’m not worried,” said Hess.

She said the reaction from the 100-plus families who use the daycare was predictable.

“This is wonderful news – mayor and council are actually listening.”

The non-profit offers rates that allow low-income families to accesschildcaree. It has 60 families for pre-school, 24 for daycare and approximately another 24 for before and after-school care.

Daycare is offered there for a charge of $710 per month, and parents can apply for a provincial government subsidy that amounts to $350 per month for children under three, and $100 per month for children aged 3-5.

Council passed a motion to amend the Discovery Playhouse Children’s Society contract to permit a renewal clause, and further to direct staff to continue to explore funding opportunities from senior levels of government to expand childcare spaces in the city.

Because it was a matter dealing with city property, it was discussed in private.

Coun. Bob Meachen told the public that council spent a lot of time in a closed meeting discussing the issue.

“It is far more fair and equitable now, and I am going to support this,” he said.

Dingwall said there was a lot of public feedback about the pending daycare closure during the election campaign.

He said the motion passed on a unanimous vote of council after “a good, healthy discussion.”

Dingwall said staff will continue looking for grant funding, and even collaboration with senior government, to secure additional spaces.

The provincial government has committed to creating 22,000 new child care spaces in B.C. and is investing $221 million over the next three years toward reaching this target.

Local governments have the ability to access up to $1 million in funding to construct child care facilities in municipal buildings and partner with non-profits for operation of such facilities.

The province has a pilot project to model universal child care, with a site chosen in both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows as prototypes. That program will run from Sept. 1, 2018 until March 31, 2020.