LaunchPad Seeks Change In MOU With City On ARPA Funds

May 20, 2024 at 9:56 p.m.
LaunchPad Director Sherry Searles asks the Warsaw Common Council on Monday for changes in the memorandum of understanding between LaunchPad and the city regarding American Rescue Plan Act funds. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
LaunchPad Director Sherry Searles asks the Warsaw Common Council on Monday for changes in the memorandum of understanding between LaunchPad and the city regarding American Rescue Plan Act funds. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union

By DAVID L. SLONE Managing Editor

LaunchPad Director Sherry Searles went before the Warsaw Common Council on Monday to request a change in the memorandum of understanding between them on how LaunchPad can use its ARPA funds from the city.
LaunchPad is the childcare and early learning coalition for Kosciusko County through the Chamber of Commerce. The initiative started in 2018 to try to bring more high-quality affordable 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 out over four payments in four years.
“Our plan for the funds was to try to incentivize businesses to getting involved in providing childcare for their own workforce,” Searles said. “This started when Instrumental Machine & Development (IMD) purchased a home and opened their own childcare for their employees. We really thought this was going to be a trend that was going to continue.”
She said what they wanted to do was provide funds for a 25% match for whatever that business invested in to provide childcare for their own staff. IMD was the first and only business that came forward to get those funds, and was awarded almost $71,000. That amount was a quarter of what IMD spent when they purchased and renovated a home.
“And so, a couple of years into this grant, we don’t have any other businesses that are interested in opening childcare for their staff,” she said.
Over 500 childcare seats have been added in the county with churches and schools so businesses may not see as much of a 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 shift the way that we can award these funds,” she said, but that will 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 child care for remote workers.
“This Play Café would be a membership model where working parents can come, stay on site, work in the café and their children will be attended by play coaches. So this will open childcare seats up for those who are working remotely,” she stated.
As the MOU states now, the childcare would have to have at least 12 seats. The change would say that instead of those 12 seats, it would be seats in a café for remote workers. The other change she said they wanted to make was regarding being licensed by the state because Play Cafés don’t have to be.
“We know that there’s about a $400,000 investment that the YMCA is going to be making to renovate a portion of their building, so we would like to use some of the funds to help them with that 25% match,” Searles said.
Additionally, IMD is still investing monthly in the childcare that they opened. They have a need for a new roof on their building, so she said they want to give IMD another 25% match, about $25,000.
Searles said they think there will be a little bit of a balance left in the ARPA funds from the city, which LaunchPad is open to giving back to the city for other needs.
Councilwoman Diane Quance asked if there has been any kind of survey regarding the Play Cafés or if she had heard it was a need. Searles said there’s been no official survey, it was anecdotal from what they hear from people who are still working remotely or who are trying to work remotely.
Councilman Josh Finch asked if the Play Café was only open to YMCA members. Searles said no, but members would get a discount.
The council wanted more time to digest the request so no action was taken Monday.
Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County Board of Directors President John Lantz made a request for ARPA funds to purchase a commercial washer and for spray foam insulation in the AWL’s The Cat House. The council approved up to and not exceeding $20,000.
With the granting of those ARPA dollars, Council President Jack Wilhite said they have about $25,000 left in the ARPA funds.
ARPA funds have to be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
In other business, the council:
• Had a second public hearing for the application of 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 committing $55,000 as the local match. The funds, 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 council approved a resolution designating the property as blighted.
City Planner Justin Taylor explained the two public hearings had to be held 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, went over the process and answered any questions the council had. No one from the public spoke against it.
Quance asked Eric Lane, Fellowship Missions executive director, what the requirements and steps in the grant process would do to his long-range plan. Part of the requirements would be that after the buildings are demolished, nothing can be built on the site for at least five years.
“Nothing,” he said. “Again, it’s all in the lingo of the grant application. It doesn’t change what we’re looking to do long term in the scope of things. After things are finished, we can then go get a variance on all of that.”
He said they’ve still got to raise all the capital for the eventual new homeless shelter to be built on the properties.
• Approved Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Joel Shilling’s request to donate the 1991 Pierce engine out at the training facility to the Macy Volunteer Fire Department. The territory board previously approved the donation, which former Chief Brian Mayo had been working on since February.
The engine had first been offered to all the fire departments in the county, but no one wanted it, so it was offered to other departments in the state, he said.
Macy had one of its fire engines blow a motor in January and only has an operating budget of $22,000, Shilling told the council, so Macy was in need.
• Approved a resolution to consolidate the Northern and Central Economic Development Areas, which the Redevelopment and Plan Commissions have already approved.
• Approved a resolution to amend the declaratory resolution and the redevelopment plan for the Winona Interurban Redevelopment Area to add Warsaw Chemical to the acquisition list. The Redevelopment and Plan Commissions also previously approved the resolution.

LaunchPad Director Sherry Searles went before the Warsaw Common Council on Monday to request a change in the memorandum of understanding between them on how LaunchPad can use its ARPA funds from the city.
LaunchPad is the childcare and early learning coalition for Kosciusko County through the Chamber of Commerce. The initiative started in 2018 to try to bring more high-quality affordable 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 out over four payments in four years.
“Our plan for the funds was to try to incentivize businesses to getting involved in providing childcare for their own workforce,” Searles said. “This started when Instrumental Machine & Development (IMD) purchased a home and opened their own childcare for their employees. We really thought this was going to be a trend that was going to continue.”
She said what they wanted to do was provide funds for a 25% match for whatever that business invested in to provide childcare for their own staff. IMD was the first and only business that came forward to get those funds, and was awarded almost $71,000. That amount was a quarter of what IMD spent when they purchased and renovated a home.
“And so, a couple of years into this grant, we don’t have any other businesses that are interested in opening childcare for their staff,” she said.
Over 500 childcare seats have been added in the county with churches and schools so businesses may not see as much of a 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 shift the way that we can award these funds,” she said, but that will 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 child care for remote workers.
“This Play Café would be a membership model where working parents can come, stay on site, work in the café and their children will be attended by play coaches. So this will open childcare seats up for those who are working remotely,” she stated.
As the MOU states now, the childcare would have to have at least 12 seats. The change would say that instead of those 12 seats, it would be seats in a café for remote workers. The other change she said they wanted to make was regarding being licensed by the state because Play Cafés don’t have to be.
“We know that there’s about a $400,000 investment that the YMCA is going to be making to renovate a portion of their building, so we would like to use some of the funds to help them with that 25% match,” Searles said.
Additionally, IMD is still investing monthly in the childcare that they opened. They have a need for a new roof on their building, so she said they want to give IMD another 25% match, about $25,000.
Searles said they think there will be a little bit of a balance left in the ARPA funds from the city, which LaunchPad is open to giving back to the city for other needs.
Councilwoman Diane Quance asked if there has been any kind of survey regarding the Play Cafés or if she had heard it was a need. Searles said there’s been no official survey, it was anecdotal from what they hear from people who are still working remotely or who are trying to work remotely.
Councilman Josh Finch asked if the Play Café was only open to YMCA members. Searles said no, but members would get a discount.
The council wanted more time to digest the request so no action was taken Monday.
Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County Board of Directors President John Lantz made a request for ARPA funds to purchase a commercial washer and for spray foam insulation in the AWL’s The Cat House. The council approved up to and not exceeding $20,000.
With the granting of those ARPA dollars, Council President Jack Wilhite said they have about $25,000 left in the ARPA funds.
ARPA funds have to be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
In other business, the council:
• Had a second public hearing for the application of 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 committing $55,000 as the local match. The funds, 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 council approved a resolution designating the property as blighted.
City Planner Justin Taylor explained the two public hearings had to be held 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, went over the process and answered any questions the council had. No one from the public spoke against it.
Quance asked Eric Lane, Fellowship Missions executive director, what the requirements and steps in the grant process would do to his long-range plan. Part of the requirements would be that after the buildings are demolished, nothing can be built on the site for at least five years.
“Nothing,” he said. “Again, it’s all in the lingo of the grant application. It doesn’t change what we’re looking to do long term in the scope of things. After things are finished, we can then go get a variance on all of that.”
He said they’ve still got to raise all the capital for the eventual new homeless shelter to be built on the properties.
• Approved Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Joel Shilling’s request to donate the 1991 Pierce engine out at the training facility to the Macy Volunteer Fire Department. The territory board previously approved the donation, which former Chief Brian Mayo had been working on since February.
The engine had first been offered to all the fire departments in the county, but no one wanted it, so it was offered to other departments in the state, he said.
Macy had one of its fire engines blow a motor in January and only has an operating budget of $22,000, Shilling told the council, so Macy was in need.
• Approved a resolution to consolidate the Northern and Central Economic Development Areas, which the Redevelopment and Plan Commissions have already approved.
• Approved a resolution to amend the declaratory resolution and the redevelopment plan for the Winona Interurban Redevelopment Area to add Warsaw Chemical to the acquisition list. The Redevelopment and Plan Commissions also previously approved the resolution.

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