SEDALIA, MO (AP) -- A sidewalk and a small patch of grass are all that separate a rural Missouri facility housing nearly a dozen convicted sex offenders from the proposed site of a day care center, a proximity that alarms some in the community.
The operator of Lil' Mouse Academy Preschool and Daycare Center wants to open in a building just a few feet from Four Seasons Living Center near Sedalia, about 90 miles east of Kansas City. So far, a state license hasn't been granted, but a sign has gone up and playground equipment was added in recent days.
Four Seasons is not a traditional skilled nursing facility, where most residents are elderly. Administrator Brandy Arment said the 235 residents include people with mental health disorders, alcohol and drug dependencies, and serious behavioral problems. Some were deemed incapable of caring for themselves and were placed there by public administrators.
Eleven residents are convicted sex offenders, and 10 of those residents committed crimes involving children, Arment said. Some committed "Tier 3" offenses, the highest level, which include crimes involving children age 12 or younger and non-parental kidnapping of children.
Arment is among those fighting to keep Lil' Mouse Academy out.
"I'm a mother of four," Arment said. "Ultimately our job is to protect everybody. I would hate for this day care to open, these little kids are outside playing by a 6-foot chain-link fence they can see through and one of these guys walks by and does whatever it is they're going to do."
The day care's owner, Angela Nichole Galvez, applied for a license from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in April. The agency said in an email that the day care center is "working toward licensure," but one has not been granted. An agency spokeswoman declined further comment.
Galvez, when reached by phone, said, "I have nothing to say to you," and hung up.
Pettis County Presiding Commissioner David Dick said he didn't understand why anyone "would want to come in and put children in that kind of position." But he also said it's not an issue county government can or will address.
"There's no zoning law so there's nothing we're going to do about a property rights issue," said Dick, a Republican.
Like other states, Missouri law goes to great lengths to keep sex offenders far removed from children. Convicted offenders must register with their local sheriff and can't move to within 1,000 feet of schools or child care centers.
But the law does not require the offender to relocate if he or she lived there before the school or child center moved in. The statute says the offender must notify the sheriff within a week of the opening of the school or center and provide proof that he or she was already living there.
Angie Casavecchia, a public administrator in Jasper County who has placed clients at Four Seasons, said it would be unfair to force sex offenders to move when they were already in place.
"They're humans," Casavecchia said. "They have to have a place to live. We have people with disabilities."
Phone and email messages left with the state lawmakers who represent Pettis County, Sen. Sandy Crawford and Rep. Nathan Beard, both Republicans, were not returned.
Arment said she's sought help to keep the day care center out.
"I've taken every avenue I can think of to try and stop it," she said.