Child care facility in partnership with CDOT hopes to break ground next year

Children eat a snack at Heritage Park Preschool in late 2021. The preschool had temporarily closed a class room that year due to a lack of staffing. A partnership with the city and the Colorado Department of Transportation could help the ongoing child care crisis.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

State and local officials hope a new child care and housing project could break ground next year, though there are several steps that still need to fall into place.

Through a partnership between Routt County, Steamboat Springs and the Colorado Department of Transportation, the facility would add additional child care spaces and housing dedicated for snowplow drivers.

In a joint meeting between Routt County commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council on Monday, Jan. 30, the city’s Special Projects Manager Winnie DelliQuadri said the conceptual design on the building is slated to start in March.

“Once we have the conceptual design, we’ll be able to do cost estimating,” DelliQuadri said. “Our goal is to try to leverage as many grant dollars as possible for construction, so that instead of having the rents pay down just debt, the rent could potentially provide some of the subsidy for the child care facility.”

City and county officials have been talking about building a potential facility for years, but a previous study showed land the county owns and is currently building on in downtown Steamboat wouldn’t be ideal for it. However, a follow-up to that study did reveal state-owned property on Steamboat’s west side as a potential location.

The project would add housing as well, a key for CDOT, which has dealt with a staggeringly low number of snowplow drivers in Steamboat and throughout the state this winter. In December, the agency had just one of its six plow driver positions in Steamboat full.

DelliQuadri said the child care spots are crucial to CDOT as well, as they could help lure plow drivers with families to CDOT’s vacant jobs, and the agency sees drivers with families as more stable candidates.

“(CDOT’s) goal is to attract families, and child care is an important part of that puzzle,” DelliQuadri said. “They view the child care center as a really incredibly wonderful complementary addition to their need for housing.”

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The land is owned by CDOT. For the deal to work, it would either need to be leased or sold to the city and county. Selling the land would only be allowed if a bill currently in the state legislature sponsored by Routt County’s Sen. Dylan Roberts becomes law. The bill aims to direct the state’s public-private partnerships office to pursue projects such as the one proposed in Steamboat.

“It depends on what (CDOT) is allowed to do,” DelliQuadri said.

How many child care slots there will be, for which ages and how many apartments the building could have will be part of the conceptual design process. If the project gets grants from the Colorado Division of Housing, the housing couldn’t be restricted to just CDOT workers, but it could be restricted to snowplow drivers in general, regardless of whom they work for. Some units may also be reserved for child care workers.

DelliQuadri said she also expects the agency will want some dedicated child spots for its workers’ children, though those details are still in the works.

Plans for funding the project will have to wait until costs are identified through the conceptual design phase. While grants are a key target, they often require matching funds that need to come from local coffers.

Still, Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter said local officials need to find a way to get this project done.

“The opportunity now, the collaboration of state government and two local governments, doesn’t come around very often,” Suiter said. “We need to find a way to do this.”

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