Feature Article - February 2004
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Joining Forces, Sharing Resources

When combining assets could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship

By Mitch Martin

Moving in together

After hundreds of meetings and negotiations, facility managers can still expect issues to arise—sometimes on a daily basis—once operations begin in a new, shared facility. Partners may find they still don't fully understand the needs and perspective of the other entity when these issues arise.

Less than three months after its grand opening, partners in the Channahon project have had at least one issue provide a test to its relationship, if a rather positive test. The facility includes an elevated running track that circles into gym space used by junior high school students during the day.

Krizic says it is difficult for even the most attentive of people outside education to understand how concerned school professionals can be about school safety in light of national tragedies in recent years. She says the track—which was elevated in part to provide separation from the school—has already been the scene of several minor problems. One was an adult carrying a paper bag onto the track, which concerned school staff. (The bag contained nothing more than a bottle of water.)

"The park district has responded quickly and immediately to every one of our concerns," she says. "They've stepped to the plate, and I can't tell you how much it's been appreciated."

The Partnering Process

Parks and recreation consulting firm GreenPlay, based in Colorado, has developed a series of steps for the creation of partnerships.

First, the parks and recreation department or agency creates a notification process to inform anyone interested of the availability of partnerships. This may include newspaper articles and ads, brochure listings, or other methods.

Next, outside groups, private companies or other agencies step forward to propose partnerships with the parks and recreation department. The department may ask for a preliminary proposal that uses a sample format, such as one GreenPlay has developed.

If the initial review yields interest and appears to be mutually beneficial to both sides, a staff member or other representative will be assigned to work with the partners.

The staff member will shepherd the proposal through a deeper review period including planning, design, review and support for each individual project. The staff will create a checklist of what actions need to take place to move the partnership forward.

At this point, the agency evaluates whether the project could involve additional partners and whether the agency should ask competing or collaborating organizations to submit proposals. In particular, if a project involves partnering with a for-profit entity and a dollar amount greater than $5,000, the agency should solicit proposals from other entities to reduce concerns of unfair private competition.

For most projects, the partners must submit a formal proposal to the agency's official development review process. The project may require approval from multiple departments, including legal, planning, fire and safety, finance, a parks and recreation advisory board, board of trustees, and a supervisor's office.

All participants will work together to draft a joint partnership agreement. The agreement might include how the partnership is developed, concept plans, and project master plans, environmental assessments, architectural designs, design review, and project management and construction documents. The agreement should also cover how costs will be covered.

If all is approved, the partnership begins. The parks and recreation agency should periodically evaluate the partnership to ensure it is meeting the agency's goals.