By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Adroit construction began work recently on the Brookings Head Start site on Redwood Spur. Oregon Coast Community Action (ORCCA) Development Director Sara Stephens said the county had been awarded a $1.6 million Community Development Block Grant earmarked for renovations and remodeling at the Brookings site.

ORCCA manages South Coast Head Start and the Brookings location.

Gold Beach and Brookings Head Start Area Manager Dar Smith said she was happy things were finally moving forward. She said Brookings Head Start was currently housed in the old medical building at 585 Fifth Street.

“I moved back (to Curry County) in 2012,” she said, “and renovations (for the new facility) were in the discussion-stage back then.”

When completed, the new location will offer two classrooms, one half-time and the other extended or full-day, according to Smith. She said the changes will also allow the Early Head Start program to be based on-site. The program is currently home-based and serves children from birth to three years old.

The home-based service includes weekly 1.5 hour home visits and two family group visits per month.

Smith and Stephens said the new facility will serve 50 children and offer the city a beautiful early-learning center by design instead of a center where staff must adapt to ongoing shortcomings.

Stephens noted, however, that a series of technical disputes and environmental issues had delayed the project and caused changes in the scope of the work to be completed.

A recent fundraising letter written by ORCCA executive Director Mike Lehman and Child and Family Services Director Wendi Baird said the grant was approved in 2012, but technical disputes with federal regulatory agencies resulted in extra costs and forced reductions in the project.

“The biggest dispute was that the original design increased the amount of room the building had,” Lehman said. “As a result, we had to be able to account for the water runoff of the new roof and we encountered piles of state and federal compliance issues we had to meet because we were using federal dollars for the project. We eliminated the extra roof and stayed within the original roof and thereby eliminated the federal requirements.”

The Curry County Board of Commissioners approved the contract for remodeling and improvements at its meeting May 8. The decision was continued from an earlier meeting because the original low bid — by Adroit — exceeded the budget for the work.

County staff negotiated a contract within the budget by reducing costs by $128,139. The most significant reduction, according to the county and the ORCCA letter, was the elimination of site work to make the playground level and larger.

“Although this seems like a ‘nice to’ and not a ‘need to,’ for Head Start, it is a priority to have a quality playground environment that supports children’s ability to experience a variety of gross motor experiences,” the letter said. “As a result, we must raise $60,000 to complete the project to the level we had planned.”

ORCCA has raised $13,000 from the community toward expanding the project back to its original plan, according to ORCCA officials. They said the project is a result of a partnership including Southwestern Oregon Community College (SWOCC), Curry County and ORCCA.

According to its website, South Coast Head Start is a comprehensive early childhood program serving children and pregnant women at no cost along the southern Oregon coast. The program provides a researched-based curriculum; free and healthy meals; inclusive services for children with disabilities; child development, nutrition, and health screening with follow-up support.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com

23415556