LaunchPad seeks change in MOU with City on ARPA funds

LaunchPad director Sherry Searles went to the Warsaw Common Council on Monday to request a change to the memorandum of understanding between them on how LaunchPad can use its ARPA funds from the city.
LaunchPad is the Child Care and Early Learning Coalition for Kosciusko County through the Chamber of Commerce. The initiative started in 2018 to try to bring more affordable, high-quality childcare to the community so more people can work, she explained.
In 2022, LaunchPad received $250,000 in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds from the city, spread over four payments over four years.
“Our plan with the funds was to try to encourage businesses to get involved in providing childcare for their own staff,” Searles said. “This started when Instrumental Machine & Development (IMD) bought a house and opened their own childcare center for their employees. We really thought this would be a trend that would continue.”
She said they wanted to give money for 25% of what the company invested in to provide childcare for their own staff. IMD was the first and only company to step forward to secure this money, receiving nearly $71,000. That amount was a quarter of what IMD spent when they bought and renovated a house.
“And so, now that we’ve received this grant a few years later, we no longer have any other businesses interested in opening child care for their workforce,” she said.
More than 500 child care spaces have been added in the county with churches and schools, so businesses may not see much need for that, she continued, but LaunchPad still has a balance of $167,000 in ARPA dollars from the city.
“What we would like to do is change the way we can award these funds,” she said, but that would require a change in the MOU between LaunchPad and the city.
Searles said they are aware that the YMCA is currently working on an initiative to open a Play Café at their location. It would provide a place for childcare for remote workers.
“This Play Cafe would be a membership model where working parents can come, stay on site, work in the cafe and have their children supervised by play coaches. So this will free up childcare places for those working remotely,” she said.
As the MOU now states, childcare should have at least twelve seats. The change would mean that instead of those 12 seats, there would be seats in a café for home workers. The other change they said they wanted to make involved obtaining a permit from the state, because Play Cafés don’t have to be.
“We know the YMCA is going to make an investment of about $400,000 to renovate part of their building, so we would like to use some of the money to help them with that 25%,” Searles said.
In addition, IMD still invests monthly in the childcare they have opened. They need a new roof on their building, so she said they want to give IMD another 25%, about $25,000.
Searles said they believe there is a small balance left in the city’s ARPA funds, which LaunchPad is open to returning to the city for other needs.
Councilor Diane Quance asked if there had been any investigation into the Play Cafés and if she had heard that this was necessary. Searles said there has been no official survey, but it was anecdotal based on what they hear from people who are still working remotely or trying to work remotely.
Councilor Josh Finch asked if the Play Café was only open to YMCA members. Searles said no, but members would get a discount.
The municipality wanted more time to process the request, so no action was taken on Monday.
John Lantz, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County, has submitted a request for ARPA funds to purchase a commercial washer and spray foam insulation at AWL’s The Cat House. The council approved a maximum of $20,000.
With the allocation of these ARPA dollars, Council President Jack Wilhite said there are approximately $25,000 in ARPA funds remaining.
ARPA funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
In other matters the municipality has:
• Had a second public hearing for the application for a grant funded by the Community Development Block Grant Clearance Program, administered by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, as required.
The city is seeking to apply for a $500,000 grant on behalf of Fellowship Missions, with Fellowship Missions providing $55,000 as a local match. The money, if awarded, would be used to demolish the former Jomac Products buildings at the corner of Smith Street and Winona Avenue. On April 15, the City Council approved a resolution declaring the property blighted.
City Planner Justin Taylor explained that two public hearings had to take place prior to the grant application in June.
Donny Ritsema, senior community development planner with the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG), and Tom Everett, attorney with Barnes & Thornburg, discussed the process and answered any questions the council had. No one from the audience spoke out against it.
Quance asked Eric Lane, executive director of Fellowship Missions, what the requirements and steps in the grant process would do to his long-term plan. Part of the requirements would be that nothing may be built on the site after the demolition of the buildings for at least five years.
“Nothing,” he said. “Again, it’s all in the jargon of the grant application. It doesn’t change what we want to do in the longer term. After things are finalized, we can get a variance on that.
He said they still need to raise all the capital for the eventual new homeless shelter that will be built on the properties.
• Approved Warsaw-Wayne Fire District Chief Joel Shilling’s request to donate the 1991 Pierce engine at the training facility to the Macy Volunteer Fire Department. The territory board previously approved the donation, which former Chief Brian Mayo has been working on since February.
The engine was first offered to all fire departments in the county, but no one wanted it, so it was offered to other departments in the state, he said.
Macy blew an engine on one of its fire trucks in January and has only a $22,000 operating budget, Shilling told the council, so Macy was in dire straits.
• Approved a resolution to consolidate the Northern and Central Economic Development Areas, which the redevelopment and planning commissions have already approved.
• Approved a resolution to amend the declaratory resolution and redevelopment plan for the Winona Interurban Redevelopment Area to add Warsaw Chemical to the acquisition list. The Redevelopment and Planning Commissions also previously approved the resolution.