January 20, 2022

City looking to revive Parker project talks

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cars pass the Parker Elementary School on Madison Street in Cortland on Monday. Detailed conversations on the project to convert the school into an early childhood center are planned to return in the fall.

Discussions among the city of Cortland, CAPCO and the YWCA of Cortland about converting the former Parker Elementary School into an early childhood learning center have resumed, although detailed conversations are still at least two months away.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said Monday conversations have recently resumed on going forward with the project, but he did not provide more details.

The plan is that the city would buy the school from the Cortland Enlarged City School District and then lease it to CAPCO and the YWCA for their combined use, he said.

Tobin said more concrete details may be available in September.

“Everybody is still on,” Tobin said.

Lindy Glennon, the executive director of CAPCO and Kelly Tobin, the executive director of the YWCA and Brian Tobin’s wife, could not be reached for comment.

Councilperson Troy Beckwith (D-7th Ward) said Monday the project hasn’t been brought up during Common Council meetings since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, daycare providers could watch only one out of three children in Cortland County who needed it, Kelly Tobin said in May.

That’s about 1,000 spots at licensed facilities for 3,000 children, said Bob Haight, president of the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce.

The pandemic only exacerbated the issue. Childcare centers had to contract, shedding employees and capacity, as the pandemic kept families home. The YWCA used to have capacity for 99 children, its child-care director said. In May, it had room for just 36.

The Parker school project lost traction during the pandemic as the city focused on more immediate issues. More parents also were working from home and able to take care of their children while they worked, Beckwith said.

No discussions have been planned at future Common Council meetings, he said.

“I think they’re going to have to figure out their finance for all parties,” Beckwith said.

The 50,000-square-foot school closed after the 2019 academic year as the district consolidated five elementary schools into three buildings; Virgil Elementary School also closed.

In June 2020, voters in the school district approved the sale of the building for $91 — a dollar for every year of the school’s existence — to the city.

The city has been allocated $500,000 from Empire State Development for the project.

City officials previously said the project would require $2 million in capital expenses over 10 years, as well as $460,000 in start-up expenses and $166,000 in annual operating costs.