Bill Would Help Prevent Another ‘Kiddie Kollege’ Situation
TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred Madden which would allow owners and operators of licensed child care centers to be reimbursed for the cost of hazardous site ground and building contamination assessments was unanimously approved today by the Senate Environment Committee.
“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the Kiddie Kollege situation, it’s the importance of making sure that the facilities that care for our children are environmentally safe,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “This legislation will provide a mechanism to reimburse the costs associated with conducting the necessary testing to assure the environmental safety of sites.”
“The estimated cost of the checks will be around $1,500 a piece, which could pose a financial hardship for many of the smaller daycare centers,” said Senator Madden. “These checks are necessary for the daycare centers to be licensed and the grants would help make sure that the checks are done, so that the centers can focus on keeping our children safe.”
Kiddie Kollege was a daycare center in Franklinville, Gloucester County, which was shut down in July of 2006 after workers in the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered it had been operating on the former site of an Accutherm mercury thermometer factory for over two years.
The Kiddie Kollege situation was the impetus for new legislation signed into law in January, regarding licensing rules and requirements for child care centers that are located on former industrial sites, Senator Madden said.
Senator Madden’s bill, S-2737, would amend the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund to permit the allocation of funds to be given as grants to reimburse child care center owners and operators for the cost of the site assessments.
The DEP would be responsible for establishing procedures for the child care centers to apply for financial assistance.
The bill would also require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish a procedure for eligible child care centers to apply for this assistance.
Currently, the Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund has a balance of $90 million. The DEP estimates that the grant program would cost between $6 million and $7 million, said Senator Madden.
The measure now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for approval.