St. Mary's County pursues child care for employees



HOLLYWOOD, Md. (August 3, 2023)—The county government is continuing its plans to provide child care for its employees but the Commissioners of St. Mary's County were met with some possible roadblocks to making that benefit available sooner rather than later.

The chiefs of the parks and recreation department and the public works department both briefed commissioners on plans to purchase a modular structure than could be made to look like a more permanent structure with a permanent foundation so as to not run afoul of zoning regulations with the Town of Leonardtown.

"We're looking at use and possession by May of 2025," said public works chief Jim Gotsch. "We're still trying to make that even faster."

Commissioner Eric Colvin seemed surprised by the slower-than-anticipated timeline for acquiring the facility and making it operational.

"Your monthly reports… said it was going to by the summer of next year," Colvin said.

Gotsch said that working through the town's planning and zoning process as well as supply chain issues resulted in the new, slower timeline for the project.

"We still have not started procurement for a modular structure yet," Gotsch said, noting he would continue to try to find ways to shorten the schedule.

The county is pursuing a child care facility for its employees as a way to recruit and retain talent for longer periods of time.

The county, like many other business entities, has many vacancies it needs to fill and providing child care is believed to be a way to ease burdens on county employees.

Under the new program, employees would not receive it as a free service, rather they would pay into it and the county would run the program much like one of its enterprise funds, such as the Wicomico Shores Golf Course, which is designed to pay for itself through user fees.

The building is proposed to be placed between the Chesapeake Building and the Leonard Hall Recreation Center on the county government campus in Leonardtown.

The capacity would be 73 children ranging in ages from infants to 4-year-olds in a space of 3,250 square feet, according to the county's proposal; 2,820 square feet of that space would be set aside for classrooms.

The state's requirements for the facility beyond licensing, programming and staffing are extensive and must include a kitchen, multipurpose room, lobby, office space, restrooms, storage spaces as well as a playground with age-appropriate areas and security.

The county estimates yearly operating expenses to be a little over $898,000, with the facility's construction costs to reach about $1.9 million.

The project would also increase the county employee rolls as it would need qualified staff as well as a director with full-time benefits, according to county project proposals.

For more local stories from the County Times newspapers, visit countytimes.somd.com or find a copy on local news stands.

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