Thursday, March 26, 2009 | midnight
It’s easy to find things that are going wrong these days. But the city of Henderson and its various partnerships with other public entities is an example of something that is going right. By collaborating well with many other public agencies, the city has created more than a few win-win situations for city departments, schoolchildren and the Henderson population as a whole.
Open Schools Open Doors
Started in 1995, the Open Schools Open Doors interlocal agreement between the city of Henderson and Clark County School District can be viewed as perhaps one of the most overlooked but well-used public-public partnership agreements in the state.
Under the 50-year agreement, the city of Henderson allows the school district to use its facilities, and the district, in turn, reciprocates by allowing the city to use school sites for certain events or programs it may conduct throughout the year.
The two public entities meet every six months and exchange lists of needed sites for upcoming events; the groups then prioritize for future openings.
Sally Ihmels, recreation superintendent for Henderson, gave the example of CCSD school swim team programs needing facilities for practices and meets as one example of the partnership.
“Other states have these kinds of agreements, but many don’t work as well as ours does,” she said. “It’s a real win-win for both sides.”
Another public-public partnership between the city of Henderson, Henderson Libraries and CCSD is the APPLE (All People Promoting Literacy Efforts) Partnership, which is geared toward improving reading among elementary-aged schoolchildren. The program works to identify and promote community resources for families to assist their children in becoming successful readers.
The program also provides incentives for young readers through the issuance of special bookmarks that track a student’s reading activity throughout a school year. Passed out in October, elementary school students in the city have reading hours tracked throughout the year. By May, the student with the highest number of reading hours wins a new computer, while the school with the highest total gets a new computer lab. Private sector partner, PBS & J Engineering funds the awards. Other private-sector groups also have gotten involved through donations, including Wal-Mart, Rhodes Homes, Barnes & Noble and others.
While the program is run through the schools, it is also channeled through the Safekey program, which is operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation department at city elementary schools. The program also is run through the city’s Kids Zone summer camps.
The much-anticipated park, which has broken ground at the corner of Racetrack Road and Burkholder Boulevard, will be home to a $14 million senior center and $16 million aquatics facility. The aquatics facility also involves a partnership between the city and school district.
With the district contributing $2 million toward construction, school swim teams will have exclusive use of the facility during certain times for swim meets and practices. The site essentially replaces the recently demolished Lorin L. Williams Indoor Municipal Pool.
Kim Becker, marketing supervisor for Henderson’s Parks and Recreation department, said the arrangement allows the district access to needed facilities, while releasing all administrative and maintenance burdens.
“It gives us (the city) money to complete the project, and it’s good for them, because they’re not in the business of aquatic parks. They will have full use of a facility without worrying about maintenance,” Becker added.
Mission View Park
An 11-acre parcel at the corner of Richard Bunker Avenue and Burkholder Boulevard, next to a detention basin owned by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, will soon become Mission View Park. Construction is expected to commence on the $4.2 million project in early 2010, Becker said.
The park represents a three-way partnership between the city of Henderson, which will build the park and maintain it, along with landscaping around the SNWA’s reservoir on the site. The city also will provide tortoise protection, with special sensors and fencing along Burkholder and Richard Bunker to protect the species.
In exchange, the SNWA will donate the land for park use, while funds to build the park will come from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which is money derived from the proceeds of the Bureau of Land Management’s land sales. The fund, administered through the Bureau of Reclamation, requires that certain amounts of land be preserved for public use.
This year, the city will be holding neighborhood meetings in the area to get a better understanding of what park needs the residents may have.
College of the future
Nevada State College easily could be seen as the city of Henderson’s largest public partnership. Started in 2002, the college today has 2,150 students, nearly a third of which are nursing students. The school graduates about 20 percent of the state’s annual graduating nurses and is eyeing funding for a nursing and sciences building this legislative session.
The college enjoys a massive 509-acre parcel in southeast Henderson, land conveyed to the city by the federal government for the express purpose of creating a four-year academic institution. The city then conveyed the land to the Nevada System for Higher Education, which is looking at how to efficiently develop the massive parcel. Meanwhile, the city of Henderson also established the site as a tax increment area, where tax revenues on the site will flow back to the college, said Spencer Stewart, the college’s associate vice president of college relations.
Today, the college has a 42,000-square-foot building on the site but also operates out of the nearby 35,000-square-foot Dawson Building and another 28,000-square-foot site on Water Street. Stewart estimates the site ultimately will be home to 20,000 to 25,000 students; 300 acres of academic buildings; and a mix of complementary commercial development, with student and faculty housing, on the remaining 209 acres.