Oak Creek celebrated the completion of renovations at the South Routt Community Center on Wednesday, June 8, increasing capacity by about 50% for town-funded child care programs.
The space used to be home to the Oak Creek branch of the South Routt Library District, but the stacks moved to a new location on Main Street last year. The community center was set to not only lose the books, but the longtime, paying tenant of the building as well.
But Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan, who is also president of the South Routt Community Organization, said the perceived predicament was solved when Oak Creek Town Manager David Torgler and the town’s Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Erika Peterson said they wanted the space.
“Being a blue collar, bedroom community we can’t pick up at (4 p.m.),” said Billy Texter, who owns Texter Mountain Construction, completed the renovations, and has two children who utilize the child care programs. “(A lack of after school and summer care) could really turn a two-income family into a one-income family very quickly.”
During the school year, in the space on the second floor, the town ran an after-school program Monday to Thursday, and a full-day program on Fridays, as the South Routt School District has a four-day school week. When school was out, Peterson ran a summer camp that was able to serve about 25 children, but because other groups used the space, all the stuff used in the child care programs had to be packed away each day.
The Routt County Council on Aging also prepared and served lunches to senior citizens and delivered meals to people’s homes out of the space as well. All that separated the children and the seniors was a thin accordion wall.
“It was kind of crazy with everything happening at once,” Peterson said. “Now we’re able to serve 39 kids in this room, so we are able to help 14 extra families.”
Families within Oak Creek do have an advantage when signing up for the programs — they can register one day ahead of everyone else — but Peterson said her students are from all across South Routt County from Stagecoach to Yampa.
Still, Peterson says they have a waitlist of about 5 to 10 families, depending on which program they would like to access. Peterson said there really isn’t any other program like Oak Creek’s offered in South Routt.
“It’s $30 a day, but we also offer scholarships to parents, so we keep it pretty affordable,” Peterson said. “If you compare it to a babysitting gig or something like that, it’s pretty affordable.”
These programs are also eligible for money from the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program, funds that are distributed through First Impressions of Routt County and are often not fully utilized locally.
“We’re a blue collar community and we need two-income families in our households,” said Torgler. “Not having a place like this would be very difficult for people in Oak Creek and the surrounding area to have that two-person income, because they’d be a stay at home parent.”
Keeping the renovations affordable was also important. Routt County gave Oak Creek $35,000 to support renovations — an amount equal to contributions given to Steamboat Springs and Hayden for work on respective community centers. Torgler said Oak Creek also used about $4,000 in town funds.
Corrigan joked he had to twist Texter’s arm for him to take the job after a recommendation from Todd Carr, Routt County’s building official.
“I didn’t even have the chance to answer the question ‘Will you take the job?’” Texter said. “I got Todd (Carr) and I got Tim (Corrigan) and then my two children are in (the child care programs) so once Amber, my wife, knew about it, there was no choice at all. … And I didn’t mind doing it.”
Texter has work booked out into 2024 and didn’t have employees at the time so much of the work was done on his nights and weekends.
“We’re lucky to have Billy in the community,” said Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel. “He’s got a lot of heart into it. He’s invested and that makes a big difference.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email [email protected].