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Child care hiring approval may spell relief for Fort Drum center nearing closure

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FORT DRUM — The approval from the Army’s Installation Management Command on Wednesday to hire workers in fields such as child care could be seen as relief as the post faces the closure of one of its hourly day care facilities.

The exception to the Department of Defense civilian hiring freeze was announced Wednesday afternoon. In addition to child care positions, the new IMCOM guidance allows installations to hire for positions such as firefighters, security guards, civilian police, air traffic controllers, and alcohol and substance abuse program counselors.

“I am authorizing the hiring to continue in the following program areas to ensure we continue to provide programs and services in support of critical missions, national security, safety of human life and the protection of private property,” Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, who leads the command, said in a news release.

The Memorial Child Development Center, Enduring Freedom Drive, was set to close Feb. 8 because of the hiring freeze, in order to move staff to facilities that offered full-time and part-time care.

Post spokeswoman Julie A. Cupernall said plans were “in the works” to resume hiring and to fill enough positions at a rate to avert the closure.

The post has 59 open child-care-provider positions that could not be filled because of the hiring freeze. However, it has been noted that filling a local position can take as long as 90 days or more.

The center had 74 spots for hourly care of children from 6 weeks to 5 years old. Though some spots were set to be moved to the post’s Po Valley Child Development Center, it was calculated 48 spots would be lost if the center were to close.

The announcement of the closure had drawn sharp criticism from parents on post, who have voiced their concerns on the post’s Facebook page and at a meeting Tuesday night of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.

Kristan E. Phillips, a volunteer on post, told legislators that closing the center would hurt parents and children, as the post provided stability during deployments or extended training exercises.

Mary H. Payant said the facility helped military spouses volunteer on post, saving the installation hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs.

Legislator James A. Nabywaniec, R-Calcium, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, advised the parents at the meeting to contact the offices of Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and U.S. Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer.

The full news release about the hiring freeze exceptions can be found at www.army.mil/article/95250.

Times staff writer Daniel Flatley contributed to this report.

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