The Teddy Bear Daycare in Maurice Young Millennium Place will cease operations on June 30, despite last minute offers by Whistler-Blackcomb and Mark Warner Group to take over operation of the space.
In the end the decision to close the facility was made by Millennium Place’s board of directors, and was based on the community’s needs for a centre for arts and culture, a $30,000 reduction in funding from the municipality, and concerns that accepting outside funding for the daycare would impact Millennium Place’s charitable status.
As well, the Millennium Place board said there was ample daycare space for kids aged 3-5 in Whistler, and that the “primary concern of parents/children is continuity with childcare staff and friends — not physical space.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Councillor Ralph Forsyth took issue with the board’s decision and put forward a motion to refer the board’s decision to staff and pursue the option of finding a third party to operate the space.
With ownership of Millennium Place being transferred to the municipality, the discussion also raised the issue of who would call the shots for the facility — the Resort Municipality of Whistler or the board of directors for the society that currently runs Millennium Place.
“We have a building here built with donated funds from the Whistler-Blackcomb Foundation, and I think that the highest and best use of this building we are pending to take over is what is best for the taxpayers,” said Forsyth. “I try to look at what is sustainable about ripping out little sinks, little cubbies. Once that infrastructure is gone, it never comes back.”
While there is currently ample space in other daycares, as well as an application by Mark Warner Group to build another daycare in the village, Forsyth said the decision was being made without looking at the long-term needs of the community.
“If we decide in a year’s time that we do need a daycare, we’ll have to rebuild it again.”
Forsyth said he would also like to know what the budgetary implications would be of removing the space, and get a legal opinion on whether allowing a third-party operator would impact Millennium Place’s charitable status.
As for the rationale that arts and culture were identified as a priority for the community, he said he municipality has already been supportive of the arts, but would side with families every time.
“You are kicking out kids to pay for artists, that actually is the case,” he said.
Other councillors sympathized, but rejected the motion for a variety of reasons.