Basalt selects provider for proposed child care facility in Willits

Blue Lake Preschool aims to add facility to accommodate up to 145 kids per day

Little Blue Preschool teacher Michelle Boyle reads and interacts with children in the toddler class at the school’s facility in Carbondale on Sept. 29, 2021. Blue Lake Preschool hopes to expand again into the Willits area of Basalt.
John Stroud/Post Independent archive

Basalt is on track to add child care for between 130 and 145 infants, toddlers, preschoolers and young school-aged kids per day in a facility planned in Willits.

The town council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve an agreement to designate Blue Lake Preschool as the provider of child care at property owned by the town. The town inherited the property during review of Sopris Meadows, the residential component of the Willits area. It must be used for community purposes.

“It’s encouraging to see us moving forward,” Mayor Bill Kane said. “Child care reminds me of the discussions about the weather — everybody talks about it, nobody does anything about it. We’re doing something about it, so this is cool.”

The plan is for the town to provide Blue Lake Preschool with a favorable lease for use of what is now vacant land at the intersection of Willits Lane and Lewis Lane. Blue Lake would be responsible for building the structure.

Michelle Oger, executive director of Blue Lake Preschool, said the nonprofit organization is eager for expansion.

“I feel like we have the staff in place and the knowledge, experience and background to take on a project like this in the midvalley,” she told the council.

Blue Lake has a facility that can handle up to 114 kids infant through fourth grade per day at Blue Lake subdivision. It started a smaller facility that accommodates 39 kids per day called Little Blue Preschool in Carbondale in December 2015. It would operate all three facilities.

“We definitely have the momentum to keep going because there is a lack of child care, as you all well know, in our valley, and we are committed to providing quality care to the families that live here,” Oger said.

Blue Lake’s preliminary plan is to have five to seven classrooms, with one for infant care, two for toddlers, two for preschool and space for the school-aged program.

Basalt hired an architect to work on preliminary design for the facility. Blue Lake will now be able to take that design a step further. Basalt’s vision is to also use the site for community uses such as a community meeting room or a small amount of affordable housing, town manager Ryan Mahoney said before the meeting. That’s a detail that needs to be worked out.

A study by consultants for the town estimated the cost of the envisioned facility at $12 million. Mahoney said the town would work with Blue Lake to secure a state of Colorado grant to cover a portion of the cost.

Oger said Blue Lake successfully recruited contractors, sub-contractors and providers of materials to contribute in-kind service for the construction and expansion of the facility in Carbondale. She is optimistic that similar arrangements could be made with a facility at Willits.

While there is no timeline on when the new facility would open, picking the provider is a key step, said Sara Nadolny, Basalt senior planner.

“It’s really giving it legs and gets it moving,” she said.

A resolution designating Blue Lake Preschool as the provider was approved by Kane and council members Elyse Hottel, David Knight and Gary Tennenbaum. Council members Glenn Drummond, Bill Infante and Ryan Slack were absent.

In other action

In other town council action Tuesday night, the April 5 election for three council seats was canceled. Only three candidates were in the running for three seats.

The candidates are incumbent Ryan Slack and new office holders Dieter Schindler and Angela Anderson. They will take office April 12.

Current councilmen Gary Tennenbaum and Bill Infante will step off the board. Tennenbaum is facing a term limit after serving two terms of four years each. Infante decided against a re-election bid.

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