Architects: No room for childcare in Leg Hall

tunnel childcaretunnel childcare

This StudioJAED rendering shows the breadth of the Legislative Hall expansion project.

Childcare facilities was on the wish list for an expanded Legislative Hall, along with an access-controlled parking lot linked by a tunnel or legislators or staff could use.

Philip Conte with architects StudioJAED recommended against the tunnel for a variety of reasons, but the Legislative Building Committee voted in April to have one anyway.

On Friday, Conte told the committee there’s no room for childcare facilities considering the space available, unless other programs were cut or space reallotted, and it would require 35 square feet per child.

If Delaware did include childcare facilities, they would be the only state that did offer that in the state house, according to a survey by Mark Cutrona, deputy director of the Division of Research.

Even so, Jesse Chadderdon, chief of staff of the Delaware State Senate Majority Caucus, asked if the committee had time to appoint a group to study its feasibility.

Conte said architects hope to submit some plans within a month. That effectively meant there was no time, especially with the General Assembly in its last two weeks of session and the Fourth of July holidays on their heels.

Childcare requests

Chadderdon said he understood what Comte was saying.

“I would say that as knowledge of this project has grown, at least in my experience, what I hear from current employees and even members is that childcare is in fact, a pretty big significant need or wish among people who are currently in the building,” Chadderdon said.

Laura Wisniewski, chief of staff of the House Democrats, said he understood what Comte was saying, but wanted to echo Chadderdon.

“I’ve had members and staff as well as members of the public express the need for childcare in our building,” she said. “So I do think it’s something if … we had to submit the plan, but there might be wiggle room for us to make changes or be able to look at this in a deeper level … at least have that to review, I think it would be helpful.”

Again, just the difficulty that we have with even some of our members and staff that have kids and obviously that impacts like their availability within the building and how they’re able to operate. So I just want to echo those sentiments and you know the case for having the childcare system in the building I understand what the space limitations but that may be difficult but just for the need.”

Several other committee members asked about checking with area childcare facilities and even Delaware State University, which is building a childcare facility.

Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden, a member of the committee, moved to vote a childcare facility up or down.

Comte said there are strict rules about childcare space that include entrances, exits and kitchen areas, as well as indoor and outdoor spaces.

Chadderdon said he wasn’t sure that Leg Hall needed a full childcare but didn’t really finish the thought.

The vote was one yes, four no, four not voting — including Chadderdon and Wisniewski — and four absent. That was not a majority vote, so Yearick’s motion failed.

The committee also:

  • Discussed gift shop options, including turning the area near it into a mini Welcome Center.
  • Talked about food options, including making better vegetarian, vegan and diet-specific enhancements.
  • Agreed to not put Wi-Fi in the parking garage, even though Wisniewski said some staffers like to go to their cars to work. However, builders will install special conduits during construction that could some day be used to add Wi-Fi, which would require a “significant” number of repeaters to deal with thick concrete and brick construction.
  • Agreed to put Wi-Fi in the courtyard, which will have a covered walkway from the entrance to the back of the building.

Deanna Killen, Republican chief of staff of the Delaware State Senate, voted no to childcare in Leg Hall.

“I initially supported the idea to look into it,” she said, “but I think it’s important to listen to the recommendation of the StudioJAED. They are recommending we do not move forward for a number of reasons and they are the professionals.”

 

 

 

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