April 07, 2020

Brewer council adopts sweeping day care reforms

BREWER — In a move to make child care more accessible, the City Council on Tuesday night adopted sweeping reforms of its day care ordinances, once considered the most restrictive in the state.

The vote came during a wide-ranging meeting that also included the contribution of funds to promote study of an east-west highway and discussion of the ice storm of ’98.

By adopting the day care reforms, the city for the first time will regulate the safety of home care facilities and the training of their providers.

Perhaps most important, the legislation brings the city in line with state guidelines by expanding to 12 the maximum number of children for which a facility may care. The city previously capped the limit at four, making it the only municipality in Maine to have such restrictions.

Beginning in 1989, home care providers began a series of failed efforts aimed at changing the ordinances. It was only last year, under the leadership of home care provider Kimberly McCormick, that the issue became a high priority for the city.

“I think this will help a lot of children in Brewer,” McCormick said after Tuesday’s meeting. “I’m glad the city realizes there was a problem and has corrected it.”

She predicted the most immediate effect of the change will be that more day care providers will move to the city. By way of example, McCormick came to the meeting with a woman who hopes to open a home care facility on Silk Street.

The adopted measures require providers to have six to eight hours of child care training, including first aid and CPR, before receiving a license to operate in the city. Additionally, the approval of child-to-staff ratios, previously handled by the city, will be given to the Department of Human Services.

Day cares that want to house four or fewer children will be subject to minimal standards to be enforced by the city’s code enforcement office. In a nod to residents who liked the old ordinances, facilities that want to house between five and 12 children now will need a public hearing and the approval of a site plan by the planning board.

In other matters, the city voted to contribute $2,500 for research and promotional efforts toward a proposed east-west highway that would connect Calais to Quebec.

The money will come from a $5,000 award granted last September by the Wal-Mart Foundation to Councilor Donna Thornton for her work in economic development. The council agreed that the remaining $2,500 will be kept in reserve to be used for the highway if it is needed.

Michael McInnis, a Bangor businessman who serves as president of the Action Committee of 50, a local economic development group, told the council it would be “a mortal sin to all of us” if it didn’t embrace the project.

On Monday, the Bangor City Council approved $10,000 toward research and advocacy on the plan. And on Thursday, the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee will discuss a $25 million bond to fund preliminary work on the highway.

Turning to the most pressing issue facing the city — the recent storm — City Manager James Kotredes said efforts to restore power were on an “upward swing.”

Kotredes told the council that as of Tuesday night power loss was limited to a few side streets on the stretch from South Main Street to Parkway South.

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