Summit County could have around 140 new child care slots by the end of this year — if projects remain on track

Silverthorne and Copper centers set to open this fall, officials say

A camper makes his move in a game of connect four during free time at the Breckenridge Mountain Camp on February 17, 2022. Around 600 children remain on a waitlist for child care in Summit County. Local officials hope the completion of two new centers by the end of this year will help alleviate that need.
John Hanson/Summit Daily News archive

Amid a desperate need for child care in Summit County, two major initiatives could bring around 140 new slots for waiting families by the end of this year — so long as the projects remain on track. 

Discussed during an April 4 Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting, the two projects — one being built in the town of Silverthorne and the other in Copper — could be open by September and November, respectively. 

The projects come as more than 600 children remain on a waitlist for child care in the county, according to Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence.

“That is huge, to make that big of a dent,” Lawrence said. “We’re just thrilled.”

The Copper Mountain Resort Association, which represents commercial and residential property owners in the area, is forging ahead on a $1.2 million project that could offer child care to 40 children. According to Lawrence, nearly half the project’s funding has come from state grants.

“Regardless though, they do need more funds to finish this out,” Lawrence said. “I would request that we help finish building this out.”

Lawrence said she would like county officials to approve $400,000 in funding for the project, though she added, “That could decrease depending upon other available grants.”

The Silverthorne project, an $8.5 million venture set to open near the town’s Smith Ranch workforce housing neighborhood, could house about 70 children daily while offering up to 100 new slots for families. 

At about 8,800 square feet, the project was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent rising construction and labor costs that nearly doubled its budget. The center received funding from local and even federal elected officials including $1 million from Silverthorne and $750,000 secured by U.S. Rep. Joe Neugse in Congress’ $1.7 trillion government funding bill.

Neguse, in a previous interview with the Summit Daily News, called child care “an unmet need” and said the project was a “priority for the community and one we ought to fight for at the federal level.”

The Silverthorne facility will become the sixth large-scale center in the county, which has just over a dozen smaller centers, many of which are in-home facilities. 

Along with the new centers, county officials may also need to give attention to Lake Dillon Preschool, a county-owned building that Lawrence said is in need of renovation.

“We need to decide a dollar amount that we can put towards this,” Lawrence said. “There’s a lot, a lot of work that needs to be done,” citing falling shelves and cracked windows that have posed safety risks within recent weeks. 

Lawrence estimated the renovations could cost $300,000 and may need to come from other county sources, such as its capital projects fund, though she acknowledged that “is getting really thin with all of our other capital projects.”

“What I would request is that we understand what this investment does in terms of keeping this center operating,” said Commissioner Josh Blanchard.

Finance Director David Reynolds called the Copper child care project a “tremendous opportunity and a good use of dollars,” but stressed that remaining county funding was limited.

Commissioners ultimately signaled they would move forward with identifying funding both for the Copper project and the Lake Dillon renovation.

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