Arc of the Ozarks operates group homes in Monett, Pierce City and Cassville. Based in Springfield, Arc has run its Barry-Lawrence county services out of rented of¬fices on Dairy Street, which also housed an activities center.
According to Robin Boring, di¬rector of program services for Arc in Monett, the 6,825-square-foot facility will more than double the room available. It will house offices for a staff of 16 to 20 people who work there daily, plus provide room for the sup¬ported employment operation, the community integration and day habilitation programs.
The day care facility, which opened in 2000, will have many of its unique features disassembled in the renovation. Boring said the only office is at the front entrance. Other rooms will be altered to es¬tablish from eight to 10 different office units. She hoped the move could be completed sometime in May.
Arc of the Ozarks serves around 100 clients in the bi-county area. Several were helping to clean up the building as transition work started last week.
The Smart Start building started as an innovative concept for Monett. A study by the Monett Chamber of Commerce revealed a lack of available day care space in town, especially for those doing shift work in factories. The facility had room for 74 pre-schoolers and in¬troduced care for infants in a se¬cure, licensed facility. Land had originally been donated by devel¬oper Jeffrey Smith, who built the adjacent Monett Meadows apart¬ment buildings, for a joint effort spearheaded by the Monett Kiwanis Club and the Clark Community Mental Health Center.
Funding for the original project came through Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits through the Department of Economic Development. A $504,000 loan was also secured through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Program.
Smart Start opened in 2000 and was initially successful. In its first year, the facility was licensed for 84 children, with 122 children ei¬ther enrolled, wanting to be en¬rolled, or who have been dropped by for care. The staff grew from 10 to 22. By the end of 2002, how¬ever, enrollment declined, primar¬ily with older children, and the original operation folded by year's end.
The Springfield-based First Steps program subsequently bought the facility but later went bankrupt. In the past year, the facility has been used by Adult Tendercare Services as an adult care center with a day program, underwritten in part by county tax boards for the develop¬mentally disabled.
The tiny toilets for pre-school children will now be taken out as the children's restroom is con¬verted for adult use, Boring said. The secure area used to care for in¬fants will also be dismantled as of¬fice space is installed.
The facility has a commercial kitchen, eight bathrooms, storage and classrooms. It is also equipped with fire protection sprinklers and an alarm system. It has a parking lot and an outdoor playground.
"Our purchasing this building was a community collaboration," said John Foley, president and chief executive officer of Arc of the Ozarks. "We could not have done it without the help of the U.S.D.A., Thom Conus of First State Bank and the Barry County Tax Board for the Developmentally Disabled."