ByJerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A new, roomier home for the Northern Montana Head Start program is one step closer this week because of a decision by the Havre City Council.
The city will hold a public hearing next month to review the proposal for a $2.8 million Head Start facility and any other project proposals eligible for Community Development Block Grant dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money is administered through the Montana Department of Commerce.
The tentative date for the hearing is March 10.
For the application process to go forward, the city would have to vote to sponsor the Head Start project after the hearing, said Annmarie Robinson, deputy director of Bear Paw Development Corp., who spoke to the Havre City Council on Tuesday night. The hearing is the first of two that must be held before the application can be submitted. The application is due in May.
If the grant is approved, construction of the new facility would probably begin in 2005 at the earliest, Robinson said.
Bear Paw Development has been working with the District IV Human Resources Development Council to put the project together since last year, she said.
Sponsoring the facility would not require any money from the city.
The council voted 8-0 to approve holding the public hearing.
"I think it's an excellent project," City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing said after the meeting.
Head Start director Frank Witter said today he is optimistic about the project but realizes it will have to go through a competitive process to get the grant.
Projects that use CDBG money must demonstrate that at least half the people benefiting from a project are low-income. Bear Paw won't know if there are other competing proposals until the hearing, Robinson said.
"We're hoping that that's the project the city selects," she said in an interview Tuesday.
Northern Montana Head Start has outgrown its present home in Highland Park, Witter has said.
Head Start in Highland Park consists of three buildings with a total of four classrooms and three offices, which are shared by 10 teachers and a number of aides. The number of students enrolled in the program has forced teachers to share classrooms, Witter said, giving teachers little time to prepare between classes.
Robinson said the program had 60 students in 1983. That has grown to 151 students now. Many staffers have to share office space, she said.
The proposed 12,000-square-foot building would consist of about five classrooms and 11 offices, Witter said today. It would be located directly east of the HRDC building.
In August, Hill County was awarded $20,000 in CDBG money to study the community and environmental impacts of constructing a new Head Start building.
Each government entity can sponsor only one CDBG application, and there is now another eligible project in Hill County - upgrading the sewer system in Rudyard - so Bear Paw Development is asking the city to sponsor the HRDC project.
"We're concerned now that we have two very good projects - very worthy projects. Maybe the city can get involved," she said.
Head Start serves the developmental needs of preschool children from low-income families. The program in District IV HRDC serves about 150 children from Hill, Blaine and Liberty counties.