County enters lease agreement with STEPS

Published 4:48 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

Supervisors in Charlotte County agreed April 19 to enter into a lease with STEPS Inc.

“This property was deeded from the schools back to the county back in July 2015 and has been vacant for several years,” said County Purchaser and Planner Monica Elder during the meeting.

STEPS operates the Head Start program in the county, Elder said, and is now interested in leasing the land for the program.

“This will give them additional space if they need to expand their programs to better serve the children in Charlotte County and we would also find a tenant for a building that has been vacant for several years,” Elder said.

The lease is for a five-year term, according to Elder. According to the lease, the initial term would begin on April 12 and end on June 30, 2021.

The leased property does not include the Central High Museum portion and the parking lot adjacent to the museum, according to the lease.

“Subject to the excepted property (aka Central High Museum property) the property hereby leased from the County to STEPS consists of 11.42 acres, including the improvement thereon formerly occupied by the Early Learning Center, which building consists of approximately 16,475 square feet …,” the lease read.

A public hearing was held concerning the matter during this time.

STEPS President and CEO Sharon Harrup said the entity took over the operation of the Head Start program on Oct. 1.

“I will be very frank with all of you in attendance. It has been eye-opening, extremely tiring and emotionally taxing,” Harrup said.

She said there is a need for early childhood education and Head Start is targeted toward that initiative.

“Our intent is not only to serve Head Start students in your location but also to serve private-pay daycare,” said Harrup.

She said childcare is a primarily need in the area and the organization is willing to offer their services for Head Start and private pay.

Supervisor Gary Walker said he has had the pleasure of working with Harrup in the past, and assured the board that the organization would be well run.

“I think it’s great. We definitely need more childcare at all levels,” said Supervisor Nancy Carwile.