The Brookings City Council Tuesday unanimously agreed to pursue a $1.5 million grant to buy and remodel the former Southwestern Oregon Community College building for use as a Head Start facility.
The city's planning commission approved a conditional use permit for the project in May.
If the effort is successful, the Head Start program will serve about 175 low- to moderate-income people annually, including at least 52 children and their families.
"This would give us a permanent facility in a good location with no lease or mortgage cost to the Head Start Program, plus provide Curry County families with a high quality building," Mary Schoen-Clark, CEO of Oregon Coast Community Action (ORCCA), wrote in an email to the city.
The Head Start program promotes school readiness for children ages 3 to 5 by providing comprehensive educational, health, nutritional and social services.
According to the Head Start website, parents play a large role in the program, both as primary educators of their children and as participants in administering the program locally. The program provides pre-literacy and literacy experiences in a multi-cultural environment. Parents are also provided social services, including assistance with childcare.
On Tuesday, the city agreed to serve as the "pass through" agency for the grant funding and will recover associated administrative costs if and when the grant is received, said City Manger Gary Milliman. No local match is required.
College officials and ORCCA asked the city to apply for the grant on their behalf to purchase and remodel the building on Alder Street off Oak Street in downtown Brookings. The college recently vacated the building when it moved to a new campus north of town.
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is a federally-funded program administered by the Oregon Infrastructure Financing Authority. The funding can be used for public facilities and housing improvements, primarily for people in the low- and moderate-income bracket. The city of Brookings is generally not eligible for such funding because of the median income of residents exceeds the requirements, but certain projects, such as Head Start, can meet eligibility requirements when the income of a majority of their clients fall within the grant guidelines, Milliman said.
In this case, he explained, ORCCA has estimated that 100 percent of people who will benefit from a Head Start facility would be of low or moderate income, he said.
In an email, Schoen-Clark said Head Start and the college started working on a plan to lease the former campus before the end of the 2011-12 school year. The plan was to have two, part-day Head Start classrooms.
However, as the college started moving forward with the repairs needed on the building, "it became apparent that it was not financially feasible for the college to put as much as $100,000 into the building to make it work for Head Start classrooms," Schoen-Clark said.
That's when and she and Linda Kridelbaugh, vice president of administrative services for the college, decided to ask the city to apply for a CDBG grant.
"We did some preliminary research and it does in fact seem feasible that in partnership with the City of Brookings we could get up to one million dollars to acquire the building at appraised value and then fully rehab the old college building," Schoen-Clark wrote.