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The July 11 meeting of the Buena Vista Board of Trustees focused on childcare needs and the Carbonate Street project. BV Residents Megan Blake and Danielle Ryan spoke during public comment about the desperate need for childcare, especially for kids zero to three years old.

Buena Vista’s town hall is open, but please read the rules regarding COVID-19 first.

Residents Say Early Childcare Needs are Critical

Blake spoke first, urging the board to make childcare a particularly high priority. Blake detailed her own trouble attempting to find care for her two-year-old.

“It took almost two years of waitlist to be able to get any sort of reliable childcare,” said Blake, who is currently pregnant with another child. “It’s sad. I found out I was pregnant and the second phone call I made was to put the kid on waitlists before anything else.”

Blake said there were only three at-home licensed providers for infant care in the area, which take only two infants each. And all of these spots are currently full.

Blake and her husband own two small businesses in town and have struggled to find and keep employees due to the scarcity of childcare. Blake explained she had attended planning meetings on the Carbonate Street project, which has a planned childcare facility, but she added that the My-BV website hadn’t been updated on that project since July 27, 2022.

Later in the meeting, Special Projects Manager Joseph Teipel thanked Blake for pointing out the lack of updates to the My-BV website and promised action. Staying true to his word, the site has now been updated with the latest news on the Carbonate Street project at the time of this writing.

Danielle Ryan echoed many of Blake’s points. “As this community and valley continue to struggle to find attainable housing options as a priority for the county’s workforce, it is also imperative that we continue to work towards finding attainable options,” said Ryan, “You can’t solve the workforce issue without addressing the lack of childcare along with housing scarcity. They go hand-in-hand.”

Ryan explained that she had experienced the struggle to find childcare firsthand as well as the experiences of friends of hers. “Everyone I know with kids under three has their own stories about how they have basically had to beg, borrow, and steal to find any childcare that they can. Or they go completely without it and they have to make the choice to sacrifice some other part of their life, whether that’s work-related or some other part of their lives.”

Ryan emphasized the need for a strong workforce by pointing out that tourism can’t happen without the people that keep the businesses running.

Shining Mountain Montessori School

Shining Mountains Montessori School Renews Lease for Historic St. Rose of Lima Chapel

Lisa Lamb provided an update on the Shining Mountains Montessori School (SMMS), which has renewed its lease with the Town for the St. Rose of Lima Chapel. According to Lamb, SMMS reached a total of 60 families for the combined academic and summer camps and is serving 40 families this summer with Monday through Friday licensed childcare.

SMMS has made a number of improvements to the property and hopes to continue expanding and improving. They hope to discuss with the Board the possibility of extending the fenced playground area further into Forest Square Park. They want to add a small outdoor classroom seating circle, weatherproof lockable shelving, easels, and a seasonally-inspired obstacle course. Lamb hopes to bring a proposal for this expansion in September.

SMMS’ Children’s House program is for children aged two-and-a-half to six years old and “guides each child in their curiosity, interests, and joyful disposition,” according to their website. SMMS is currently searching for a part-time executive director.

Lamb explained that SMMS received a $25,000 grant from The Circle to provide infant and toddler materials, furniture, and teacher training. They have been offering infant and toddler workshops in the community and hope to contribute more in the future to help fill in the gaps for childcare in this age range.

Board Approves Amendments to Carbonate Street Phase 1 Property Conveyance Agreement (PCA)

The Board voted unanimously to adopt changes to the PCA to adjust for how the Carbonate Street Project develops over time. The changes update the LLC name from Fading West Development, LLC to Carbonate Street Apartments, LLC, which will now be the entity that owns the land.

They are also no longer going to be building the childcare space as a part of a mixed-use building. Instead, childcare will now be in a separate building on town-owned land.

The approved amendments update the PCA to more accurately reflect where the project is currently.

Carbonate Street Project planned diagram from page 104 of the July 11, 2023 Trustee meeting packet.

Board Votes to Support Energy Smart Colorado

Energy Smart Colorado (ESC) is a nonprofit, which provides assessments to help weatherize homes and make them more energy efficient. They are seeking a grant and have presented a series of initiatives to help homeowners by replacing gas and electric baseboard heating with more efficient electric appliances to improve energy efficiencies of homes in the community.

The letter of support states, “The Town of Buena Vista proudly endorses the Energy Smart Colorado (ESC) application that proposes to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions by weatherizing and electrifying existing buildings in the rural, mountainous region of Colorado. We express our keen interest in their planned initiatives to support households within our community that fall into the 80% to 120% Area Median Income (AMI) range.”

The board voted unanimously to direct Mayor Libby Fay to sign the letter of support for the group. Buena Vista joins the City of Salida in working with partners like Energy Smart Colorado to help locals save energy.

Other Business

The Board congratulated Joel Benson on his new official position as the town’s planning director.

At the end of the meeting, the Board moved into an executive session to develop negotiation strategies related to the Carbonate Street Project.

The full packet for the July 10 meeting is available online here.  The next meeting is scheduled for July 25.