County makes changes to lease for Head Start

Anoka County and the Anoka County Community Action Program (ACCAP) have had to restructure an agreement whereby ACCAP leases a county-owned building for its Head Start program.

The reason is the federal government, which provides funding for the Head Start program.

The Anoka County Board has approved the revised lease agreement on the recommendation of its Finance and Capital Improvements Committee.

County Commissioner Robyn West abstained because she serves on the ACCAP board.

The restructured agreement won’t affect the Head Start program at the Anoka County Head Start Center in Coon Rapids.

According to County Administrator Jerry Soma, the county issued bonds in 1991 to build the Head Start center and initiated a lease with ACCAP which required the agency to pay the cost of the bonds as well as all related costs that might occur with the building.

“The county has no unreimbursed cost associated with the maintenance and operation of this facility,” Soma told the county board in a memo.

In 2003, the county board initiated a modification to the lease from a straight lease to one that would convert the building to ACCAP ownership at the end of the lease term in 2018, he wrote.

This has given ACCAP an ownership interest through a capital lease agreement, Soma wrote.

But the federal government has recently told ACCAP that it cannot own property unless the lease and title are extensively revised, which at this time is not practical, according to Soma.

“As a result ACCAP is asking the county to revise the lease so it’s a pure lease without the ownership clause,” Soma said.

This leaves the county with some choices when the lease expires in 2018, he wrote.

Soma outlined those options.

• The county could continue some form of lease with ACCAP, perhaps at a lower rate.

• The county could ask ACCAP to vacate the building and use it for something else.

• The county could convey the building to ACCAP through special statute, giving it ownership of the center, but not specifically by the Head Start program.

ACCAP’s commitment is to help individuals in county achieve self-sufficiency, according to its website.

Educational programs are offered through Head Start and home ownership workshops.

In addition, information and referral services are offered to county residents through programs such as Child Care Resource & Referral and the Senior Information Line.

ACCAP also provides direct services and subsidies to residents such as affordable housing, the energy assistance program, the child care assistance program and the weatherization program.

Head Start is a multi-faceted child and family development program for income-eligible households designed to help women and children, aged birth to five, and their families achieve their full potential, according to the website.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]