The Choteau Area Port Authority gave financial updates, listened to a presentation on local childcare options and voted to give letters of support to various local businesses seeking grants during their meeting Sept. 26.

Board chairwoman Mary Sexton announced that CAPA had about $10,300 in its account. She explained the extra money mainly came from a marketing grant, the Choteau Chamber of Commerce, individual Choteau businesses, the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District and registrations to the Rocky Mountain Front gathering on Sept. 13 and 14.

In discussing the Rocky Mountain Front gathering, Sexton said the organizers did some things that worked very well, and had things they can improve on for next year. Collecting registration fees for the RMF gathering was the first project CAPA used its newly acquired Square card reader for and, Sexton said it was an easy, seamless process. She also said next year, the organizers’ goal is to “do a better job of promoting the event.”

There was also one grant that CAPA was denied, Sexton explained, because their application contained errors. Once those errors are fixed, the board may reapply for the grant.

Choteau Mayor Dan Lannen attended the meeting, and said the City of Choteau is contracting with Great West Engineering for grant writing services, and they could ask someone from the firm to help with applications like those.

The board then heard from Heather McCartney-Duty, a Choteau resident who works with Family Connections Montana, a nonprofit with the mission of “utilizing the strength of community to support exceptional early childhood experiences” in terms of child care and early childhood education.

“My purpose in being here is as a regional outreach to bring the issue of childcare to the forefront of discussions. Rural areas as a whole are struggling to engage families in employment because a lack of childcare,” said McCartney-Duty.

Citing a Department of Labor study from 2016, McCartney-Duty said with the resources and population it currently has, Teton County is only able to meet 8% of its childcare needs. “That’s not unusual,” she said. “Even the best communities are only meeting 50%.”

McCartney-Duty discussed how many parents may be under-employed, working part-time or staying at home because they can’t find quality, affordable child care that works with employers’ schedules. It also could affect gender inequality in the workforce, she said, as it is more socially accepted for mothers to stay home and take care of the kids if needed.

“Eighty-one percent of mothers nationwide with kids under age 18 were employed and needed childcare, but the cost of regular quality childcare exceeded the cost of college tuition in 49 states,” said McCartney-Duty.

She also shared potential solutions to childcare problems that her organization could help with, including helping interested providers in getting licensed, researching what other cities are doing and offering start-up grants and business classes.

Sexton invited McCartney-Duty to attend their next roundtable meeting, which is expected to have a larger audience of health department workers and parents, to discuss these same childcare issues there.

Sexton also said she planned to invite Charles Hlavac, who recently purchased the Teton Pass ski area to the meeting, to offer him any help that CAPA can provide him in his new venture. (CAPA had previously been involved in laying the groundwork for a co-op to purchase the ski area.)

Sexton and Lisa Haas were the only two members able to attend the meeting in person. They discussed the above topics that didn’t require a vote amongst themselves, and then called CAPA member Blair Patton to discuss and vote on other topics. With Patton on the phone, the group voted unanimously to send two letters of support for businesses seeking grants: one for Bynum’s Two Medicine Dinosaur Center and one for Benefis Teton Medical Center.

The next CAPA meeting is Oct. 24.