FOSTORIA - A three-county consortium was awarded $1.85 million in state funds yesterday to build an early childhood education center in Fostoria.
The 22,000-square-foot facility, to be built on Lytle Street, will house Early Start and Head Start preschool programs for up to 200 youngsters from Seneca, Hancock, and Wood counties. A satellite office for the three county health departments also will be located at the center.
Ken Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities, announced the state grant during a press conference at the Good Shepherd Home, a Fostoria nursing facility.
“We think this is an important project,” Mr. Ritchey said. “It s overwhelming to be told your child has a disability. ... You bring together a lot of resources, and you make it easier for those families.”
A nonprofit foundation, Fostoria Community Early Childhood & Family Center, made up of citizens and officials from the three involved counties will build and operate the center. Fostoria city Councilman Arlen Lowery, the project manager, said the board hopes to start construction within nine months and open the facility in 18 months to two years.
The WSOS Community Action Commission runs a Head Start and child-care center at the First Presbyterian Church on Fremont Street in Fostoria. Joyce Huntley, a WSOS spokesman, said 119 youngsters attend classes or child-care sessions at the Fostoria center.
“They need a lot more space and classrooms,” Mr. Lowery said.
The state is paying for 76 percent of the project s cost. The foundation plans to borrow $578,571 to cover the rest of the construction.
Normally, the state funds 70 percent of such projects, but state Sen. Larry Mumper (R., Marion) obtained an additional $150,000 from the state capital budget.
Mr. Ritchey said the $1.85 million represents the state s entire biennial budget for early-childhood education construction. Ohio s budget crunch has reduced funding for such projects by two-thirds, he said.
“We literally have no more money,” Mr. Ritchey told the crowd of city and county officials. “You earned it, and you have a right to be proud.”
Larry Manley, who owns the Independence House nursing home in Fostoria, is donating five acres near the home for the early childhood center.