Camp Hutchins, a popular daycare center housed at Hutchins Street Square, was granted at least one more year of operation when the Lodi City Council approved a new lease agreement at its meeting Wednesday.
The program was created in the early 1990s and run by the city until Lodi Memorial Hospital took over in 1998, paying a token $1 rental fee per year to use space at the city property.
Lodi360 video: Citizens Speak Out on Money Issues
That lease and its renewals ran out in August 2012. In December 2012, the city council directed staff to come up with a way to make renting that space more cost-effective. When faced with the idea of paying more in rent, Lodi Health decided to close the program.
It was the enthusiasm of parents like Susan Limb, who were willing to pay more for daycare to help cover the increased rental costs, that saved the program.
Limb said Camp Hutchins is at an ideal location, with a park close by. She likes the lenient hours of operation and that the program is not faith-based. She and many other parents are happy to pay more in monthly fees to help cover the rent.
"We did have a big support for paying rent. We never wanted the dollar rent," she said. "We were more than happy to pay our fair share for our children."
A lease was drafted by Lodi Health to pay $2,788 a month in rent and utilities to continue using the space at Hutchins Street Square. It sparked an animated conversation among Lodi citizens concerned about the city's bottom line.
Resident Ed Miller pulled the item off the consent agenda to air his concerns that the increased rent still wouldn't make housing the daycare a financial gain for the city.
Resident Doug Chaney said he could not understand why the city was willing to provide space for Camp Hutchins at a loss.
"Lodi Health is not like a nonprofit struggling to make it. They've got plenty of money and resources. Why do they need a special bargain from city council to run their programs?" he said.
But city staff said breaking even on the lease wasn't their objective. The point was to find a way to renew the lease that was agreeable to both sides.
City manager Rad Bartlam said the program was not created to make money. It was created to provide child and adult daycare for Lodians.
"Our per-square-foot costs exceed what we are getting in rent," said Bartlam. "But if that was the purpose of the building, it should never have been built. Hutchins has a different purpose. These types of performance centers rarely break even."
The council voted unanimously to approve the one-year lease agreement with two extension options. Lodi Health will be responsible for keeping up the interior of the space used, while the city will maintain the exterior of the building and landscaping.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.