A new plan has emerged for reopening a day-care facility in Westbrook that closed abruptly in February, leaving parents scrambling to find child care.
Less than a day after Lollipop Lane Educare shut down Feb. 11, the state issued a temporary license to Norma Wolf, the parent of a boy at the center. Wolf wanted to reopen the facility immediately, but said Wednesday that the plan “didn’t move forward.” She declined to comment further.
Now Mindy Brigham, a single mother with a background in education, has applied to the state for a license to operate a child care center at 18 Patrick Drive in one of the two buildings previously occupied by Lollipop Lane.
John Martins, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Brigham’s application was received Friday and still requires a fire inspection and background check, a process that typically takes 60 to 90 days.
Brigham said she signed a lease last week and plans to open The Academy for Active Learners on July 5.
“I feel there’s such a need in this community for quality child care,” she said.
More than 200 children were suddenly without day care — and 40 people without jobs — when AnneMarie Hebert, the owner of Lollipop Lane, told parents Feb. 10 that she was closing the next day. She said she could no longer afford to pay bills, including the $27,500 monthly rent and $1 million-a-year payroll.
Wolf, who co-owns a telecommunications firm, said at the time of the closure that she was inspired to help keep the day care running when she heard about a single mother who was worried she’d lose her job if she had to miss work to watch her son.
Wolf applied to the state for a temporary license Feb. 11 and it was issued hours later. DHHS officials said at the time that they hoped the fast-track approval would mitigate the impact on families.
Other local day-care providers, who said the licensing process usually takes weeks or months, questioned the state’s decision, as well as Wolf’s ability to take over the operation.
“I don’t feel I’m asking for things too quickly,” Wolf said. “I’m not asking for anything special.”
Brigham, 36, said she’s a certified teacher and has worked at schools in Maine, Arizona and California. She said she later worked in insurance in California, but was laid off from her job last June. A Portland native, she moved back to Maine in September, she said.
After seeing how difficult it was to find child care for her 3-year-old son Luke, Brigham said she started thinking in the fall about opening a center herself. By the time Lollipop Lane closed, she had developed a business plan and was preparing to approach banks for loans.
Brigham plans to hire six full-time teachers and two substitutes. She said the license she applied for would allow her to care for up to 70 children.
Brigham said she’s not daunted by the previous failed attempts to run day-care centers at that site. By leasing the smaller of Lollipop Lane’s two buildings, she believes she’ll significantly cut down on overhead costs.
“I’m really just so excited to open up,” she said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: