Compass Daycare, one of two new childcare facilities announced for Sooke last spring, is on the verge of shutting its doors due to a bureaucratic mix-up.
The operators of the daycare, located at 6560 Sooke Rd., put the blame squarely on the actions of the District of Sooke staff.
“We secured the spot in April and immediately made all the improvements to the building that we knew [Island Health] would require to have the location certified. We made sure it was properly zoned for commercial, and we had the fire department and the bylaw officer come down and take a look,” Christine van den Bergh, Compass Child Care administrator, said.
“They said everything was fine and told us to go down and pay for our business license, which I did. I was told they would mail it our to us.”
That was last May.
The daycare opened in the beginning of June, offering much needed infant and toddler care in Sooke.
It wasn’t until October that Jennifer Shaw, the daycare owner, received a call from a bylaw officer telling her of a problem.
Van den Bergh said she was told there was a “communication error” at municipal hall and the building department had to ensure the daycare was up to code before issuing a license.
An inspection took place and the daycare received a list of needed improvements. There would be no business license until the work was done.
The daycare owners decided they would proceed with the improvements, even though they would stretch the financial viability of the centre to near breaking point.
But more was to come.
A building permit was required to do the work, but to get the permit an architectural drawing and an engineer’s Building Code analysis were required for the building.
“We looked into it and those reports would be another $7,000 to $9,000,” van den Bergh said. “That’s just out of our league. We just can’t afford it.”
The daycare announced it will close its doors at the end of February.
But help could be on the way.
Acting mayor Jeff Bateman said the situation was unacceptable.
“We need more child care services in the community, and certainly we should be working with these people to ensure they stay open and providing a service in Sooke,” Bateman said.
“We’re a growing community and daycare services are vitally important.”
It was a position echoed by acting chief administrative officer Raechel Gray.
“Something has gone sideways here. We were thrown for a loop when I got this news, and we’re doing everything we can to resolve all this as soon as possible. There’s no way we want to see this daycare close,” Gray said.
She promised an immediate review, and said architectural and engineering reports were likely not required.
Meetings with the daycare operators are scheduled to seek a resolution and to prevent the daycare’s closure.
“This is exactly the situation we’ve been working real hard to resolve. It happens too often, and I know our new CAO is trying to put an end to this sort of thing,” Coun. Al Beddows said.
As for Shaw, the Compass Day Care owner, she’s adopting a cautious optimism.
“I hope it’s true. It seems the staff aren’t on the same page, but if it can all be resolved, we would definitely stay open,” she said.
“We want to stay open. I have the local staff and we have the children. I’m in this for the children and the community, but I can’t put more money into this. Honestly, it should never have come to this.”