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Child care dilemma gets relief

Fri., Dec. 23, 2011

City offers MLK center occupancy extension

A compromise between the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center and the city of Spokane will allow the building to remain open temporarily for child care services, despite the building’s lack of fire sprinklers.

The state requires all child care centers to have sprinklers or shut down, which in the outreach center’s case would affect about 250 to 300 families, some with multiple children in the center, Executive Director Freda Gandy said.

Board President Ben Luety said installing sprinklers would cost about $50,000, an investment too expensive to afford right now.

So, the city offered the center an extended contract of occupancy at a meeting with the center’s board of directors on Tuesday, allowing it to keep its doors open through the end of February.

“Look what happens when people work together to avoid something that would affect the community during the holidays,” Luety said.

Fire Chief Bobby Williams said that due to contract agreements, the center’s occupancy must be less than 49 at all times and there must be a fire watch on duty at all times.

“We think those are reasonable and strict conditions,” Williams said.

Dorothy Webster, who represented the mayor’s office at the meeting, said the city was trying to find a way to keep the facility at 845 South Sherman open and protect its occupants.

“It’s about trying to do the right thing at the right time,” Webster said. “It was just a matter of trying to work toward the best solution for everybody.”

The long term goal is to move the center to a new building, said Gandy. The directors placed a bid on the former Discovery School, but due to the owners’ bankruptcy, the deal is not yet certain.

“If I had my choice that would be the building,” Gandy said. “I’m in love with that building. I really would not like to see us in another one.”

“The center has been a very viable and important and efficient operator in that area for many, many families,” board member Bill Etter said. “We reached what we think is a temporary bridge solution while we try to put some permanent changes in place that will make the center compliant.”

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