- Republican mayoral candidate Joe Carr and Commissioner Rhonda Allen question child care proposal
- Ketron: Project will save money on property and kitchen costs
- The children of the daycare interact with the residents of the nursing home
- Commissioner Allen McAdoo: Difficult to find daycare at nightDifficult to find daycare at night
Rutherford County government employeesincluding those at night, could benefit from a 24-hour guard service.
Mayor Bill Ketron has proposed that the “affordable child care center” operate uninterrupted seven days a week for up to 125 children out of a currently budgeted staff of 1,626, including 1,380 full-time.
The “Generations Connected” service is reportedly housed in a still-constructed $4 million building that Ketron hopes to open by at least 2024 on the county campus. Community Care Retirement Home on County Farm Road about one mile south of Joe B. Jackson Parkway.
“It’s a retention tool to keep county employees.” said Ketron, who in his role as mayor also serves as chair of the Community Care Board.
The project will take 18 months to build and go beyond Ketron’s four-year term as lame mayor on August 31. The mayor came third in the Republican primary to winner Joe Carr. Second was Rhonda Allen, a member of the Rutherford County commissioner, and Aaron Coffey was fourth.
Carr is running in the August 4 election against three independent candidates: Randy Allen, Norman Hanks and Royce Olen Johnson.
Ketron hopes to start this project this summer on a property in the south of the county. The estimated 6,000-square-foot daycare would include a tornado-safe room.
Carr and Allen each questioned Ketron’s daycare proposal
An existing Generations Connected provides daycare for 28 children aged 6 weeks to 5 years. The service is for Community Care employees in a small building and play area beyond the retirement home. The property is located between Interstate 24 and South Church Street in Murfreesboro (US Highway 231).
The mayor suggested the idea could be extended long-term to the same location to also provide daycare for the children of school employees in Rutherford County, which currently has a budgeted staff of 5,815.
At a retreat in March, elected members of the Rutherford County School Board spoke of adding on-call services to attract and retain employees.
Other employers provide childcare. The Murfreesboro School Board decided in 2017 to add “Little shoots” daycare for the children of district employees. The service is in two buildings on the Mitchell-Neilson Elementary campus.
In the case of the county, the elected mayor will be the one who leads the Community Care Board.
Prior to the primary, Carr and Allen each said they would like to see the daycare’s business plan before backing the proposal.
“I want to see market and business research to substantiate this,” said Carr, who is also a former state representative. “Is there a need and a demand?
The county surveyed about 1,200 employees about the proposed daycare and 258 expressed interest in the service, said Sonya Stevenson, director of human resources for the Rutherford government.
Carr, however, said he wanted to see an independent investigation “to show county employees really want this service.”
Ketron offers a bond to finance the project
To pay for the project, Ketron considered two options. One involves the Community Care Board obtaining bail authorized by the county commission. The other alternative would be to use the upcoming federal bailout grants from the US.
The Community Care Board, which includes a finance committee headed by Chairman Doug Bodary, would be responsible for repaying the loan over 15 years of payments.
“We have a very healthy fund balance (of $4 million),” said Bodary, a former auditor of county governments with the Comptroller of the Tennessee Treasury. Bodary also serves as the assistant superintendent of Rutherford County Schools Budget and Finance. He was previously elected Rutherford County Board Member.
Community Care operates with income from living expenses, including private and government health insurance. The retirement home budget derives no revenue from local taxes. Members of the Community Care Board are appointed by the county commission, which also approves the department’s budget plans.
Ketron and Bodary persuaded the county commission’s health and education committee, headed by Chairman Allen, to approve the loan structure option to fund the daycare project.
“If it’s really going to address the need to help us retain our employees, then that could potentially be a good plan,” said Allen, who opted not to seek another term on the commission. “My concerns are how do you get enough staff for a 24-hour daycare? What will you need to pay for a third-shift childminder and how many staff will you need?”
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Ketron: Project will save money on property and kitchen costs
Before reaching the 21-member county commission, a proposal to use a federal bond or grant to fund the daycare project would have to go to a budget, finance and investment committee headed by Chairman Robert Peay Jr. .
Peay supports the construction of the daycare.
“It’s a good benefit for our employees,” said Peay, who is running for re-election as an independent against Republican candidate Michael A. Rodgers.
Ketron said daycare costs will be affordable because the project saves money by using existing county property.
The proposal also saves money by using an existing kitchen that serves community care to provide meals transported to children under a covered walkway linking the retirement home to the future day care centre, the mayor said.
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The children of the daycare interact with the residents of the nursing home
Existing connected generations include children who interact with nursing home residents on Mondays and Wednesdays. A recent activity was planting flowers, said Lindsey Smith, director of the daycare and staff member for four years.
Residents “cheer up” when they see the kids, said Ketron, who has been working on plans for the daycare for three years.
Bodary said the energy increases every time children mingle with residents in the activity rooms.
“Everyone has fun, and there are no rules about coloring inside the lines,” Bodary said.
The daycare in particular would benefit working nights for the county sheriff’s office, emergency medical service, fire department and emergency management agency.
“It would be an affordable daycare for our first, second and third shift employees,” Ketron said.
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Commissioner Allen McAdoo: Difficult to find daycare at night
The mayor also informed the county commission’s property management committee which is headed by President Allen McAdoo on the proposed daycare. The committee did not vote on a development plan that would be overseen by the Community Care Board.
“I like the idea,” said McAdoo, a Republican who did not oppose the August 4 election to keep his seat on the commission he has held since 1978. “We have to do whatever we can. to provide incentives to our employees to help offset the cost of living.”
Second- and third-shift county workers are struggling to find child care and may want expanded services for them at Generations Connected, McAdoo said.
“It’s a proven fact that older people love seeing kids,” McAdoo said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Contact journalist Scott Broden with news tips and questions by emailing him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ScottBroden.
Survey of proposed daycares
- Number of county government employees interviewed: about 1,200
- Number of people interested in using a childcare service: 258
- Percentage who would need daycare on first shift: 70
- Percentage who would need daycare on the second shift: 15
- Percentage who would need daycare in the third quarter: 12
- Percentage who would need 24-hour child care coverage: 3
Source: Sonya Stephenson, Rutherford County Human Resources Manager