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Walkout puts Kid Time in limbo

A Republican legislative walkout has threatened a $2 million state grant needed to complete a new building for Kid Time Children’s Museum in Medford, which is scheduled to move out of its current location this summer.

“It’s in limbo,” said Sunny Spicer, executive director of Kid Time. “The $2 million from the state is a pretty important component of this project. We need it pretty quickly.”

Kid Time is scheduled to move out of its location on Central Avenue and Sixth Street by June 30 and into the former Carnegie Library building on West Main Street.

The organization offers a variety of activities for children to play and learn while being monitored by parents and Kid Time employees.

Spicer said its lease is up June 6, and she anticipated closing Kid Time for a month to move into the new location.

The Legislature and Gov. Kate Brown have supported the Kid Time project, but it requires a vote of the Legislature to clinch the $2 million grant. On Thursday, with Republicans legislators still absent after walking off the job in February, the Legislature adjourned the 2020 session.

Kid Time has already put $1 million into renovating the Carnegie for a project budgeted at $9.5 million. Many of the improvements have included in-kind contributions.

The city of Medford has given Kid Time a 50-year lease at $1 a year. Medford also did about $2 million in upgrades, such as new windows and a heating and air conditioning system. With the upgrades and the savings in lease costs, Kid Time estimated the city’s contribution to the project at $3.6 million.

The organization, which has operated out of rental locations for 14 years, has raised $1.6 million from the community for the project so far.

Without the state grant, Kid Time may not have enough money to finish most of the interior work on the Carnegie. Spicer said she’s hoping that a special session is called in the next 30 days and the Kid Time grant makes it on the agenda.

“It’s demoralizing.” she said. “We have everyone saying this is an urgent state project, and yet here we are without approval for the funding. We will keep at it for this special session.”

She said more fundraising will be needed to improve the outdoor play area, and fencing has already been built around it. Other work will be needed to complete improvements to the 100-year-old building.

If the $2 million grant is awarded by the state, Kid Time will need about another $2 million to complete the work.

Kid Time has some 100,000 visitors a year, and Spicer estimates that number should increase by 20% at the new location.

Spicer said her organization plans to double the size of its preschool program, which currently serves 100 students with sliding-scale scholarships that help struggling families.

“We see so many families that come here to get the support they need,” Spicer said. “Kids have to have a safe place to be.”

Kid Time has received bipartisan support.

Senate Republicans staged two walkouts last year and again this year. This year, House Republicans joined senators in a walkout aimed at killing a climate bill.

Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said other bills were also in jeopardy from the walkout, including money for wildfires, Southern Oregon University and a $2.5 million homelessness grant to the city of Medford.

Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, said he has been working with other legislators for months to secure the $2 million for Kid Time.

“It’s been a quiet but focused effort,” he said. “The governor came to Kid Time back in the fall. She thought it was the greatest thing she ever saw.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch /{ } Mail TribuneLucianna Cardenaz, 4, and Bennett Cardenaz, 2, play Thursday at Kid Time in Medford.