Dettmer: Strengthening our service by working together
The Beaverton School District and Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District have a lot in common. These are both public agencies with similar
service boundaries, serving similar populations.
For more than 60 years, these agencies have partnered to develop an operating approach for managing the service demands generated by new growth and redevelopment. By pooling resources, the two districts have been able to improve access to public amenities and deliver better services to the greater Beaverton community.
At a time when budgets are stretched, resources are strained and government agencies are challenged to serve a growing diverse community, the leadership and staff for these organizations have found a creative approach to make a difference. What did they do, and how did they do it?
They developed a joint philosophy centered on the idea that by leveraging opportunities and resources, they could reduce costs for both agencies and save taxpayer dollars. By aligning their efforts, the public wins with greater access to fields, gyms, open space and parks while also saving time and money.
It all begins with planning. Leaders from both agencies meet regularly to discuss areas of mutual interest and to find ways to cooperate and conserve resources.
A shining example of this approach was celebrated recently in October, with the grand re-opening of Cedar Hills Park adjacent to William Walker Elementary School. The two agencies jointly planned for the redevelopment of the school and the park. BSD sold some of its adjacent lands to the park district for a new multi-purpose synthetic athletic field and park site. This new playing field has lights for use at night; the park has new play equipment; there's an interactive splash pad; the community has garden space; there are permanent ADA accessible restrooms; families can enjoy a picnic and shelter area — and more. THPRD gave BSD exclusive rights to use the field during school hours, reducing the footprint needed for land for the school, which reduced BSD's ongoing maintenance costs. By coordinating efforts, the two districts were able to stage and time construction activities in tandem for both the school and the park site, reducing construction impacts and saving tax dollars.
"Working closely together just makes sense, and we couldn't have a better partner than the Beaverton School District," said THPRD Board President Felicita Monteblanco.
BSD and THPRD coordinate closely in many other areas. The two districts have an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with accompanying implementing procedures that are reviewed regularly. These agreements cover many topics, including shared use of fields and gyms. This approach allows the community's many sports leagues and teams better access to recreational facilities. BSD agrees to allow THPRD to schedule the use of many school fields, and in return, THPRD takes the lead on maintaining these fields. THPRD also gives BSD high school swim teams priority when it comes to using its pools.
The districts also collaborate on emergency response and planning. THPRD serves as a reunification site in the event of a major incident at a BSD school. Staff for both agencies work together and are trained jointly on emergency response plans.
"When we work together and share resources, we create even better opportunities for our youth and community. This is how it should be," said Beaverton School Board Chair Becky Tymchuk.
Both districts also have a strong collaboration when it comes to serving vulnerable populations. BSD has a robust network of community liaisons working throughout the schools. THPRD relies heavily on these experienced professionals to help promote the district's financial aid program. Staff for both agencies regularly partner on resource fairs, information nights, culturally-specific outreach and more to raise awareness of resources that are available to help people access vital services.
This level of partnership and collaboration comes with a great deal of concentrated effort. Coordination inside any large agency is a challenge — so combining the efforts of two takes a great deal of intentionality, focus and flexibility. But in the end, both agencies see the tremendous benefit this strong investment in partnership building brings to the community. The winner is clear — it's the public that has improved access to shared resources.
Brantley Dettmer is the chief operating officer of Kaiser Permanente's Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro and board president of the Westside Economic Alliance.
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