Downtown day care loses contract with state; downtown residents challenge land use

Just when residents thought the issue was settled about a downtown Kansas City, Kan., day care being located next to a proposed parole office, a new wrinkle has turned up.

The downtown day care, Pandarama, will lose its contract next Tuesday with the state, which pays for 60 percent of its children, according to Carolyn Sipple, director of the day care.

In back of the day care, about 100 feet away, is the old Apple Market building at 7th and State that was being converted for a parole office.

The day care and downtown residents opposed the placement of a parole office so close to a facility with young children. Rep. Val Winn, D-34th Dist., led a successful effort to pass new legislation prohibiting a parole office from locating so close to a day care.

Now, the state welfare agency has notified parents at the day care who receive child care assistance that they will have to find another place for their children because the day care’s contract with the state has been canceled, Sipple said.

Under the terms of the contract, the state doesn’t need to have a reason to cancel it. The center was cited for some small items, but has taken care of them, and they are not of the magnitude that should result in a cancellation of a contract, Sipple believes. In more than 36 years of operating the day care facility, she believes that these items are not out of the ordinary.

Sipple said she is concerned that the children who receive this assistance are being displaced, and she also is concerned about her staff, which is a minority staff and could be displaced.

She said the state agency has not yet allowed an appeal. The day care center has hired an attorney and is now looking at its options.

As some children are being forced to leave and change preschools, Pandarama currently would like to find other children to attend day care there. The day care center is not closing, Sipple said.

“We’re standing, and we’re here,” Sipple said.

‘Doesn’t pass the smell test’

Rep. Winn was shocked about the latest developments, as she thought the parole office matter had been settled. There had been discussion in the community about the parole office moving to a new building in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Rep. Winn about the latest developments.

Rep. Winn said the state could have used the old Apple Market building for another of its offices downtown, such as a Department of Revenue office. If it was approved for another state use, it would not have been a loss to the state or the building’s owners to renovate the building.

Residents ask for moratorium on social services downtown

The lack of consulting neighbors first when businesses, offices or agencies move in has sparked some downtown residents to organize around these issues.

Scott Murray of the Turtle Hill neighborhood group recently appeared before a Unified Government Standing Committee to ask the UG for a moratorium on all new social services downtown, while the issue is studied. He had opposed the parole office’s location in the downtown area and also was concerned about other social services’ locations there.

A former city planner, Murray told UG commissioners they had to decide the future of downtown – whether they wanted it to be a business center or a social service center.

He said social services were tending to cluster together in the downtown area, and he suggested that it would be better for residents and businesses if any additional social services were somewhere else, such as the bottoms area.

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