Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 24, 2024
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News
July 10, 2024

Daycare Deal Dashed

Local parents looking forward to new child care at Athol Town Hall are about to be disappointed
<p>Athol Park at Athol Town Hall. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
Athol Park at Athol Town Hall. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Despite a wait list of 400 families, the municipality has failed to come to an agreement with the Hub Child & Family Centre to renovate the Athol Town Hall. The deal would have created 24 new pre-school spots as early as this fall. The plan had the full endorsement of Council.

In a letter to County staff, Stacey Stanford, The Hub’s Executive Director, said her organization would not be proceeding with the project — despite having secured funding through Prince Edward Lennox and Addington Social Services to upgrade the septic system and washrooms and perform all required renovations to the historic building. 

In lieu of rent for the first year, the Hub had agreed to install industrial appliances in the Hall’s kitchen, upgrade the play area, and build new fencing. 

According to Sam Branderhorst, Athol ward Councillor, who worked tirelessly to build a bridge between the municipality, the Hub, and current Town Hall user groups, local opposition to the plan “was less about sticking points and more about legacy fear and political issues.”

While the Athol Town Hall is dark most days of the week, it is the home base for the Cherry Valley Women’s Institute Branch and the Athol Recreation Committee. During negotiations, “both groups were worried both they and the good work they do would be forgotten as the Hall was repurposed for the future,” said Councillor Branderhorst.

“Council was behind this 100 per cent and I’m heartbroken for all of the young families that came to our meetings and gave their deputations and offered their stories to the public about their struggle to secure child care.

“I’m heartbroken for the young parents in my ward.”

In her letter, Ms. Stanford noted, “I anticipated bumps along the way, and I am disappointed for the families that need child care so desperately. We have great support in the community and people that advocate for child care as it is a high demand, essential service for Prince Edward County. I am thankful for the families that wrote into the Council in favour of childcare, for the support of PEC Needs Child Care, and the families in the Athol ward for their continued support.”

Further inquiries to Ms. Stanford and Athol Recreation Committee Chair Carmen MacCallum were not returned prior to press time.

County spokesperson Mark Kerr said the municipality will continue to work with the Hub should it bring forward another proposal to expand its child care services. 

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