A new building for Wyandanch’s Head Start program has been under construction by Babylon Town for more than four years, beset by delays while its costs increased by more than $1 million, including money for new windows due to vandalism, according to town officials.
The town first announced the new site for Head Start in 2012, predicting the 7,100-square-foot building would be completed in a year at a cost of $1.8 million.
The Washington Avenue building is to replace the 4,000-square-foot building on Long Island Avenue where Head Start is currently housed. The new building has now cost nearly $2.9 million and won’t open till at least early 2017.
The building is being paid for through federal Community Development Block Grant funds, state funds, money from the sale of the old building and energy rebates.
“It’s frustrating when you have a new building getting vandalized and you have children in another building that’s really outdated,” said Town Deputy Supervisor Tony Martinez.
Head Start provides comprehensive child development programs for children from low-income families as well as adult education and job skills training.
Wyandanch’s is one of the oldest Head Start programs in the county and serves about 100 children, with another 50 to 80 children on a waiting list.
Many of the new building’s delays, according to town officials, were because Head Start is a federal program and as such the building had to meet certain requirements. The town also had to wait for Suffolk County approval in order to hook the building up to the county sewer system.
But perhaps the biggest obstacle has been getting federal approval to sell the old Head Start building. Debrah Garcia, chief executive of Long Island Head Start, said the yearslong wait was due to red tape as a result of a slight change in the wording of a federal regulation.
“It’s just a shame it had to take this long but we’re moving in the right direction now,” she said. “There is no comparison as to how much more high quality services we can provide and children we can serve with the new building.”
Martinez said the town’s portion of the work is “99.9 percent done” and they are “just tying up loose ends.”
Those loose ends include replacing windows recently vandalized, the second time the building has been targeted by vandals, town spokesman Brendan Cunningham said.