By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing
The agenda was jam packed. Dozens of East Lansing citizens filled City Hall council chambers the city’s monthly work session. While the council had a long list of items to discuss, the large crowd quickly made it known that only one item held its interest.
The plan for a two-hour meeting was thrown out the window when the opening communication from the audience lasted that duration alone. Citizen after citizen walked up to the podium strictly to discuss agenda item number eight, which had to do with the budget analysis and potential closing of the Bailey Community Center Early Age Child Care Program.
“The potential ripple out effect from (losing) the green space and that building is very risky,” said Matt Phillips, who lives in the Bailey community. “I see that space as an anchor to the neighborhood and a bridge between residents and Michigan State students.”
According to East Lansing Parks and Recreation Director Tim McCaffrey, a deficit of more than $100,000 and a drop in registration have been the main factors in his recommendation to shut down the program.
“Beginning Oct. 1st, our enrollment in the program will be 40 children. In January through May, our enrollment was 66 children overall in the program,” said, McCaffrey. “We have at least $375,000 in expenses and upwards of perhaps as much as $566,000 worth of expenses. Those are expenses that we characterize as Band-Aid expenses.”
Those funds could be put toward police, ambulance, fire and aging infrastructure, said McCaffrey. But every citizen that spoke related a lack of marketing as a reason for the large deficit. They noted that the building does not have a sign with the program’s name, the city website does not feature any information about the center and there are no Bailey pamphlets at any city buildings.
Former Bailey Child Care Center Director Nora Thompson claimed that she suggested adding a second infant room while expanding from four overall rooms to seven. Thompson said this would help make the center financially viable.
But when the council asked McCaffrey about expanding the center, he responded, “To have the care of 20 infants in that building right now would be a pretty scary situation without the ability to look at a whole host of things.”
The council decided against voting on any proposals regarding the future of the Bailey program and opted for deciding on a resolution during the next work session on Oct. 14.
“I think the city could be a shining example of a municipality that came together, struggled through some difficult questions, and decided to support the children of the city.” Said Thompson. “What a story that would be.”