Little Paws daycare faces eviction

Little Paws Learning Centre is being evicted. The daycare, several months behind in its lease payments, must leave the new building it has occupied…

Little Paws Learning Centre is being evicted.

The daycare, several months behind in its lease payments, must leave the new building it has occupied since April by Tuesday.

The eviction leaves about 15 daycare workers without jobs and nearly 50 parents scrambling to find other daycare centres for their children on short notice.

Andrew Robulack, the daycare’s director, says the closure could have been prevented had the organization received adequate oversight by the Yukon government.

Instead, it was set up to lose.

The eviction notice, which arrived Wednesday afternoon, only speeds up plans recently made by Robulack to close the daycare at the end of December.

Faced with crushing lease payments, he said he has no other choice.

The lease agreement, signed in August of 2007 by the nonprofit’s previous board of directors, caused the daycare’s rent to triple, to a monthly payment of $12,000 from $4,000.

To make such exorbitant payments, the daycare would need to enroll about 98 kids, said Robulack. That’s one-third more children than the daycare’s licence allows, and more than double the current enrollment of about 45 children.

The math never worked.

“The lease was just too expensive,” said Robulack, who inherited the mess when he took over as director eight months ago.

He could find no business case to support signing the lease. Nor could he find minutes from the nonprofit’s board of directors that indicate the discussion leading up to the decision.

At the time of the signing of the lease, the board only had two members, well below the number of members required to hold meetings, he said.

The daycare once had hopes of raising revenue by subletting out the empty third floor of the building. But it became entangled in red tape at city hall and, lacking a development permit, the top floor remains unused.

One party will gain from the daycare’s failure, at least in the short term: the landlords, Borud Enterprises.

They are set to receive a $50,000 cheque, cut by the Health Department as a security deposit for the five-year lease.

But owner David Borud said the situation is hardly a win for him. The building would require lengthy renovations before it finds a new tenant. In the meantime, it will likely sit empty.

He dismissed accusations that, as the daycare’s landlord for the past decade, he should have known the lease deal was unrealistic.

“We don’t know the first thing about the daycare business,” he said. “We’re developers.”

“We built a building and we need to pay for it. The rates are the going rates in town.”

Robulack is baffled how the Health Department could throw this money at such an ill-conceived project.

Not that he hasn’t asked.

In the spring he met with then-Health minister Brad Cathers to ask for support. He never heard back.

Recently, he put a call in to Health Minister Glenn Hart. Again, no response.

When the issue was raised in the legislature this week, Hart pointed out daycares are nonprofits beyond government control — although they receive government money.

He did not answer the question of whether his department performed due diligence before cutting its $50,000 cheque.

Department officials put their faith in the daycare when they cut the cheque, said Patricia Living, a Health Department spokeswoman.

“The daycare had a solid, positive reputation. It had been running with no problems for 17 years, at the time. It was already a viable licensed facility which was simply moving to a new location and needed to be licensed in the new space. All parties anticipated this would not be a problem,” she wrote in an e-mail.

This is only the most recent disappointment for Little Paws, which has a history that amounts to “a long and sordid tale,” said Robulack.

Prior to moving into the new digs, the daycare was housed in an old building that was eventually closed because of mould growing in its walls.

The daycare then bounced back and forth between the Mount McIntyre and Canada Winter Games buildings for several months before moving into its new home.

The new location was custom-built for the daycare. Washrooms include toddler-height toilets and sinks. Heaters run along the ceiling to prevent children from burning themselves. Windows are low so everyone can see outside.

Now the daycare is bankrupt. Parents are angry. Workers are entering the Christmas holidays with no jobs.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak,” said Robulack. “There’s going to be difficulty for a few of them.”

He’s not asking for government to bail out the daycare. He estimates that to do so would require $70,000. Even with that money, there’s no guarantee the daycare wouldn’t founder later.

He says enough government money has been wasted.

“I feel sick we’re losing $50,000 on this,” he said.

“I have a hard time arguing for the public to support something that hasn’t been run properly.”

To do so would be like giving CPR to a cadaver, he said.

“At some point you need to realize it’s not breathing any more.”

Contact John Thompson at